With the first week of school wrapping up, some students have expressed concern about contracting COVID-19 during their time on campus.
For senior Karina Nay, a mental health support peer at the Health and Wellness Center, her apprehension has grown because she is taking all face-to-face classes with the exception of one online class.
“It makes me nervous to contract it because we don’t know the long term effects of it,” Nay said. “The idea of a bunch of SUU students getting [COVID-19] is really scary.”
Southern Utah University has implemented precautions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, such as requiring face masks, encouraging social distancing and increasing the amount of cleaning and disinfecting on campus.
The university will release the number of self-reported case counts among students each Thursday so students can see if and how quickly coronavirus is spreading on campus. .
Under Keeping Campus Healthy, SUU has encouraged students to monitor their health, contact Intermountain Healthcare if they start feeling symptoms to see if they should get tested and isolate themselves until test results are received.
Riley Reynolds, coordinator at the Health and Wellness Center, encourages students to visit SUU’s coronavirus page with any questions about the school’s coronavirus response.
“We’ve been working on this page for about six months,” Reynolds said. “Students can utilize the page to report contracting COVID-19 and sign up for text alerts about coronavirus from SUU.”
This page also includes information about the fall schedule, which will move online after Thanksgiving Break on Nov. 24.
Class instruction has also been adjusted this semester, as cameras and microphones have been implemented in all of the instructional spaces to help with contact tracing if a student or professor contracts COVID-19.
SUU created the website to outline accommodations being made to keep students healthy this semester.
The site includes pages explaining how high-risk individuals can attend class remotely, the proper use of masks, as well as how student employees can procure personal protective equipment.
If students start feeling symptoms they must get tested. according to the Testing, Contact Tracing, Quarantine page.
Before getting tested, Reynolds said patients should call the COVID-19 hotline at 1-844-442-5224 to order a test and be pre-screened for symptoms.
Cedar City’s InstaCare is the only testing site in town, but it’s important to note that the test is free. The testing facility is located at 962 Sage Drive near the Megaplex Theatre.
Reynolds also encourages students to have a copy of either their own or their parent’s insurance on hand in case they have to get tested in the future. This will not only make the process much easier for students, but could also save them money in the long run.
SUU’s coronavirus page states, “When you arrive at the yellow tents next to the InstaCare on Sage Drive, you will be tested immediately instead of waiting for the pre-screen and test order.”
If students test positive, the next steps that need to be followed can be found under the Testing, Contact Tracing, Quarantine page and include reporting the results to both SUU and the student’s professors.
Students who test positive should report that to the school through the online COVID-19 Reporting Form. If they live off-campus, they are expected to quarantine in their homes until at least three days after their symptoms have eased.
For students in quarantine, SUU will partner with SUU Dining Services to bring meals and snacks, and the HOPE pantry is always open and will implement a socially distant pick-up system for the food.
Those living on-campus may utilize university-owned apartments while in isolation for ten days or three days post symptom, whichever is longer. If all the beds fill, the university has made arrangements with local hotels for additional isolation beds.
In these apartments students will have a private bedroom and bathroom and will have access to the internet to continue their schooling. The school reports that it will also assist in providing other essential supplies as needed.
Students who have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 will be asked to quarantine in their own apartment for 14 days, and the school will provide the same accommodations promised to students who test positive.
Most on-campus dining options, including Chick-Fil-A and Thunderbird Circle, will remain open, and the school “strongly advises guests wear masks, except when eating.”
SUU “intends to make the student experience this upcoming year as robust and vibrant as any other semester at SUU,” and the Student Programming Board is planning in-person and virtual activities each week.
SUU housing will remain open after Thanksgiving break, and the University Housing housekeeping staff will regularly be passing through the buildings to disinfect high-touch areas.
Before classes began, students were required to accept the SUU Stay Safe Pledge within the Back to Campus 2020 course on Canvas, which encourages students to wear masks, limit gatherings to small groups and get a flu vaccine each fall and the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.
Reynolds will partner with mental health peers at the Health and Wellness Center to provide personalized virtual wellness checks for those students that are in quarantine.
“The first contact is a phone call, but the checks are customized to what the students want. If they don’t want to be bothered, we won’t keep checking in, but if they want we can shift to text, too,” said Nay.
During the 10-day wellness check, the Health and Wellness Center will reach out via call to students to make sure they’re keeping up with schoolwork, ask about their mental health and encourage them to stay in contact with professors.
Staff like Nay and Reynolds hope to make this fall semester as safe as possible for students, and they hope that the precautions implemented will help.
“As a leader on campus we have a duty to protect students at SUU, and I hope we can do that,” Nay concluded.
Story by: Elizabeth Armstrong
Photos by: Elizabeth Armstrong