DePauw COVID-19 cases spike, university mitigation protocols loosen

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As of April 19, DePauw’s Mitigation Team has declared the campus COVID-19 status has moved from Blue to Yellow, meaning “there are clusters of COVID-19 cases on our campus, but they are well-defined,” according to the COVID–19 Dashboard.

Besides changing the campus COVID-19 status, the COVID-19 Mitigation Team stopped contact tracing on behalf of individuals and instead encouraged students to use the Tell Your Contacts site to let their close contacts know they might have been exposed to the virus. 

Julia Proctor, associate dean of student wellness, said that students are not required to isolate outside of their own housing. However, isolation spaces are available for students who tested positive and for those whose roommates tested positive. 

According to Proctor, “through the first year and a half of the pandemic, it was important for the University to be more ‘hands-on’ in identifying close contacts to slow the spread when the illness was more severe prior to vaccines, when testing wasn't as readily available and when healthcare systems were overwhelmed with caring for the sick and weren't able to handle the additional public health practice of contact tracing.”

She added that, now, however, individuals have better access to COVID-19-related resources to take care of their health without relying on the university. As a result, the Mitigation Team has focused its work on moving healthcare back to healthcare professionals, increasing individuals’ personal responsibility for their health.

Masking requirements remain in classrooms, labs, and indoor groups of 75 or more but are still optional in broader spaces across campus such as residence halls and the dining hall. For all meetings of more than 25 people, the university will offer a hybrid or virtual option. 

With regard to social events, Sarah Steinkamp, chief of staff and leader of the COVID-19 Mitigation Team, says that there are no plans for canceling any of the events already planned such as award ceremonies. 

“To be frank, it's really important that we still have a social life on campus and I think students have figured out mechanisms for having fun, for having events in ways that are better, safer than others,” Steinkamp said. 

According to her, the DePauw Health and Wellness center provides COVID-19 symptomatic and asymptomatic testing. “Students are also encouraged to have access to over-the-counter tests. Those tests are good quality,” she said. 

Senior Amreha Huq says she is concerned that the rise in COVID-19 cases is going to force students to go back to remote learning. “I am also concerned that it's going to put a damper on graduation and the contingent planning for graduation and I would love to have a graduation that does not risk anyone's safety but is also a memorable experience,” Huq said. 

Senior Ivy Sedam says she is not very concerned about the new cases because she’s focused on graduating. “I definitely avoid people not wearing masks. I’m so close to graduation I feel a bit like I’m gone already so if we go online again I’ll barely notice,” Sedam said.