Marywood relaxes COVID-19 testing and contact tracing


Photo credit/ Sabrina Resuta

Marywood has changed their reaction plan to COVID-19 as the pandemic enters its third year.

Monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic became an essential part of the Student Health Services’ efforts over the past two years.

Throughout the 2021-2022 academic year, a campus-wide COVID dashboard was created and published on the university’s website. It was a resource for students, faculty, and staff by providing COVID-related information on campus.

At the start of the 2022-2023 academic year, the university’s website was redesigned and, in the process, the COVID-19 dashboard was removed. Maura Smith, the director of Student Health Services, elaborated on the reasons behind the departure of the dashboard.

“We noticed the link [for the dashboard] was broken, which escalated the conversation to the school’s executive administration in regards to the dashboard all together. Administration decided to retire the dashboard at the same time of local news stations not reporting COVID counts as regularly,” said Smith.

Although the dashboard was retired from the website, Student Health Services is still keeping accurate logs of cases throughout campus. The health center plans to keep these logs and continue to monitor cases throughout the year.

“I found comfort in a sense having access to the information on the dashboard. I understand why it was removed and feel better knowing logs are kept and up to date,” said Arianna Baratelle, a sophmore art therapy student.

A 2020 article from Inside Higher Ed cited both the positives of having a consistent source of COVID information and the inconsistencies in dashboards published by various colleges, due to differences in testing and reporting..

“Dashboards that break down case data for students and faculty/staff separately, and provide information on trends in the surrounding city or county, the number of individuals in isolation/quarantine, and the campus’s operating status, among other elements, are also superior,” the article explained.

By the standards laid out in the Inside Higher Ed article, Marywood’s dashboard was average. The Marywood dashboard had information concerning positive cases and trends on campus. The dashboard was a resource for the school community to stay updated on the cases throughout campus. With the CDC and local governing bodies relaxing regulations, the dismissal of the dashboard followed the trend of releasing less information as the pandemic appeared to wind down across the country.

The contact tracing process has also been relaxed. Since the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic year, contact tracing has been relaxed by Student Health Services.

“The responsibility is put on the individual who tested positive to inform their close contacts,” said Smith.

Maura Smith had noticed that even when they utilized their resources to do contact tracing, students often reached out as a close contact to someone that had tested positive. In following the trends of protocol relaxation across the country, the task of notifying close contacts is now left to the COVID positive student. This allows health services to focus its resources more broadly in terms of non-COVID related situations.

In order to move forward with COVID-19 still being a factor, Student Health Services is utilizing all resources in order to keep campus safe.

“We’re learning to move from a containment phase to a maintenance phase at this point,” said Smith.

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