The following is a story written for an intro reporting class I took in the fall of 2020, at the height of the pandemic.
The class was Intro to Reporting and Writing Principles, and my section was taught by Kim Smith.
The COVID-19 epidemic is not an isolated incident. The effects of the virus are haunting every country on the planet.
The virus has hit the United States particularly hard. Colleges in the US have faced a difficult decision on whether or not to open their doors and let students return to campus.
Drake University is among those colleges. They have made many different plans over the summer, each staying fluid and changing as new information on the pandemic arises.
One question haunts Drake and other U.S. colleges: how will universities handle COVID cases on campus?
Drake has two methods to deal with students who either have COVID or have come into contact with COVID.
The first method is quarantine. Any student exposed while living on campus is required to quarantine for two weeks.
One student, Student A, said they received an email on August 20th, just a few days after moving into their dorm, stating they had come into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case on campus.
Student A asked to remain anonymous to protect their identity and medical information.
The University asked Student A and other students in the same situation to keep to their dorm for two weeks to try and mitigate the spread of the virus.
Student A said they were allowed to take a COVID test at the beginning of their quarantine but decided not to.
They said, “You have to wait the 14 days anyway and I didn’t want to risk getting in someone’s car multiple times because I don’t have a car… I just didn’t want to risk being around people more than I had to.”
During quarantine, Student A said they were allowed to leave their dorm for walks outside, as long as they wore a mask and maintained social distancing.
They were not allowed inside any other buildings on campus.
They said Drake Dining brought their meals to their building. Student A said, “Drake Dining has been super good about getting me my food… That’s been the only good part about this. They’ve been really nice and considerate about getting me what I need.”
After two weeks in quarantine, Student A said they took a COVID test and was negative. They said they will rejoin the Drake community and, “Be a human again.”
The other way Drake is handling COVID is restricting positive students to isolation.
Any students living on campus who tests positive for COVID are required to move from their current dorm to somewhere off campus or Ross Residence Hall.
Student B said they moved to campus early for a campus job.
Student B preferred to remain anonymous as well.
Shortly after their arrival, they said a close family member tested positive for COVID and other family members began showing symptoms.
Student B said they did what they thought was responsible and tested themself earlier than their scheduled test from Drake.
On August 16th their test came back positive. They said, “I got a knock on my door and it was public safety. They took me down to the common room in my building, shut the door, and told me my test was positive.”
Student B said they were then given half an hour to decide whether or not to move home or to Ross Hall.
Student B said their parents live 6 1/2 hours away from Drake, and they were also developing symptoms for COVID, so Student B decided to remain on campus, and move to Ross.
Once in Ross, they said they weren’t allowed to leave. They said they stayed there for 10 days and Drake Dining delivered all their meals.
Students isolated in Ross, like Student B, are allowed to leave after they have no fever for 24 hours without medication, their symptoms are improving, and they have stayed in isolation for a minimum of 10 days.
Student B said, “I felt lucky. My case was more like the common cold and I recovered easily.”
They were able to return to campus after 10 days of isolation.
On their experience living in Ross Hall, Student A said, “It was not the worst experience of my life.”
The room in Ross was private, with a bathroom, bedroom, living area, and kitchenette.
They said there was something that looked like mold growing on the ceiling. Student B said, “I tried not to think about it.”
Both Student A and Student B said they had mixed feelings on how Drake is handling the coronavirus pandemic.
Student B said they were supposed to receive a call every day from contact tracing for a status report, but Student B said, “I only remember talking to someone five times out of the ten days I was there. It is possible I didn’t pick up, or they just didn’t call me.”
Student B said they only received one call from contact tracing during their two-week quarantine. “Nobody reached out to me, nobody checked to make sure I was quarantining. You would hope students who received that email would quarantine… but for Drake University to not actively check in on those students does not sit well with me.”
Student B stated their Greek life organization is sending out information on members who are testing positive, not names but where they are living, and how many have tested positive.
Student B said, “Even sororities are sending out information on testing… That makes me feel safer than Drake does.”
Both Student A and B said they were uncomfortable that Drake is not releasing numbers on students and COVID.
Student B said about decisions students have to make concerning their safety, “What do you do when you don’t even know?”
The Times Delphic has created a petition calling for Drake to release their numbers on COVID testing. The petition is on Change.org and currently has over 1200 signatures.
Shortly after the completion of this article Drake University began releasing their COVID numbers to students in weekly emails, and continued to do so throughout the 2020-21 school year.