The future of COVID-19 policies on campus

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Masking is currently optional for students at UD. Photo by Makenna Connors.

The University of Dallas’ COVID-19 policies have changed since last semester. The reason for some of the changes is that the CDC has changed its guidelines surrounding COVID-19, which involve shortening quarantine periods for infected individuals and next to no quarantine period for close contacts.

UD had mandatory testing in 2020-21, but in the 2021-22 academic year there has been no mandatory testing, except among student athletes and on the Rome campus. 

Clare Venegas, the vice president for marketing and communication, said, “We do still utilize the services of a contact tracer and have not required mandatory testing, although some students (such as student-athletes or Rome students) are subject to testing requirements set by other governing bodies (the SCAC in the case of athletes, and the Italian government in the case of [the] Rome campus).”

The quarantine policy has changed since last semester. According to contact tracer Jennifer Ochieng, last fall semester the policy regarding quarantine allowed no quarantine if you were vaccinated or had some kind of immunity. However, if you did not have any immunity and had contracted the virus you would need to quarantine for ten days. 

Ochieng said, “Now recently, the CDC just changed their guidelines again to the shortened quarantine period and the shortened isolation period.”

Due to the changed guidelines of the CDC, the quarantining policy on campus has been relaxed a bit. Now the policy is that if an individual is exposed to COVID-19, he or she must wear a mask for five days and on the fifth day, get tested again to determine if quarantine is necessary. 

Ochieng said, “Come in and we’ll get you tested and if you test negative at that time, you’re good to take off your mask, so to speak, and go about your normal business, but of course if they are [still] positive, then they become a case and we do isolate them.”

The policy regarding contact tracing has changed as well. Speaking of these changes, Dr. Lora Rodriguez, the director of the Health Clinic, said, “The biggest thing with the difference in contact tracing is we had looked at the CDC’s information and felt that doing a quarantine was not as critical as it was before. So because of that, we needed to notify people from the contact tracing who were exposed, but we didn’t have to put those same exposed people in their rooms and keep them closed up for a prolonged period of time while we were waiting to see if they got sick or not.”

A prominent reason for these changes in both the CDC guidelines and campus policy is that the omicron variant infects vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals alike, meaning everyone is both high-risk and low-risk. 

Ochieng said, “Everyone’s kind of equals now and so that’s why the decision was made to go ahead and let these students move freely wearing a mask and washing their hands, social distancing [etc]. Things are evolving with the variants. That’s because omicron is less virulent. It’s not as dire of a situation.”

These changes, for now, will remain in place the rest of the semester. However, the future of campus policies regarding COVID-19 is uncertain and ever-changing. Most people are ready to go back to normal, but no one knows what will happen in the coming months. 

Rodriguez said, “We don’t know what it’s going to look like. I have no magic crystal ball; I can’t tell. I can only go baby step by baby step to see where things are going. I do think that it does appear that we are heading to a more endemic place. It would be nice to be in that place. I would like that very much.”

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