As students work to practice COVID-19 safety on campus, an uptick in positive cases two weeks into the spring semester has many looking to the university for increased testing.
More than 70 students and faculty have now tested positive for COVID-19 since the return to campus, according to Belmont’s COVID-19 reporting site, with 24 of those affecting residential students.
Though the university encouraged students to get tested before coming back, tests were not mandatory and not available to asymptomatic students through Health Services.
Despite living on campus, freshman Carlo Rodriguez said he hasn’t heard clear communication from the university about the recent spike in cases.
“I feel a little confused, I guess,” said Rodriguez. “You would think since we’re hitting a peak on our campus, they’d tell us.”
Belmont continues to update its online resources with new positive cases reported on a weekly basis – information collected in part using Belmont’s voluntary symptom tracker.
The university also announced its intention to provide testing for asymptomatic students in the coming weeks — Monday, an email was sent out announcing a series of voluntary testing events for asymptomatic students living on campus.
Rodriguez described the daily symptom tracker as a “selfless option” that’s easy to forget. Belmont should have something more mandatory, like bi-weekly testing, he said.
Sophomore Haydn Nash agreed, saying the voluntary options “put a degree of trust in students and their honesty.” Nash is currently COVID-19 positive and self-isolating off campus.
The daily symptom tracker isn’t the most effective because there are no real repercussions for not completing it, he said.
Nash also said he expected an increase in cases this semester as students returned from around the country and started in-person classes on day one. The recent spike might have been prevented if Belmont made testing mandatory or provided it on campus, he said.
Junior Charlotte Maracina also thinks the symptom tracker isn’t the best method of preventing spread.
“I don’t think people are always honest on the symptom tracker, which makes it hard to get real data,” said Maracina.
Maracina was required to test negative before returning home to New York in the fall, but was unable to get a test through Belmont because she didn’t have COVID-19 symptoms.
She was frustrated by the lack of available testing at Belmont but feels better with the university’s recent introduction of sentinel testing for asymptomatic students.
Though she admitted she was unsure about the cost of additional testing, Maracina said Belmont should provide testing for all students, not just those showing symptoms.
Though Maracina had trouble getting tested, she said she feels safe on Belmont’s campus thanks to its mask mandate and social distancing guidelines.
Nash also said he has never felt unsafe in his in-person classes last semester and expects to feel the same when he returns to campus.
“It just seems like everybody is being very respectful of one another’s health,” he said.
Rodriguez is a little less optimistic. He saw a few students without masks on campus and has also seen people without face coverings in the hallways of his dorm, he said.
“We’re probably doing better than most college campuses, but there’s still some slip-ups that need to be acknowledged.”
This article written by Vivi Smilgius.