Deservedly, Tulane University has received national praise for their constant surveillance of students and their vigilant Covid-19 testing. The hard work of Tulane’s faculty, healthcare workers, and students has created a campus environment as close as possible to the one which Covid-19 took away while still adhering to coronavirus regulations. As students orient themselves to the new normal of college life, there are many Covid-19 related procedures which have changed the normal operations of the student body. Most significant of these changes is the requirement for all undergraduate students to participate in weekly Covid-19 testing.
The nature of the coronavirus has prompted many students to limit the number of individuals they come in contact with. As such, Tulanians have begun to form pods; inclusive of a given student’s closest friends. But what is not shared by Tulane’s coronavirus data is the mental toll Covid-19 Testing has on students. This mental toll is not the result of receiving the Covid-19 test itself, but rather the social tensions which arise as a result of varying test results within one pod of students.
The establishment of the close ties necessary to create a pod, only worsen the aftermath of a positive Covid-19 test result. On-campus students who test positive for Covid-19 are required to quarantine in Patterson Hall (an on-campus dorm-turned-infirmary) for 10-14 days with the entirety of their immediate dorm and any individuals they may have contact traced. On-campus students are offered the alternatives of a stay at the Hyatt Hotel if negative or they can find temporary off campus housing. Off-campus students who test positive for Covid-19, as well as any individuals they may have contact traced, are required to quarantine in their off-campus residence for 10-14 days.
Regardless of which University mandated quarantine option a group of students choose, it is bound to put on strain on relationships. A positive Covid-19 test result forces a group of students to navigate through the uncharted territory of living with Covid-19 or living with someone with Covid-19. Whether relocating to a new dorm or a hotel, splitting into multiple different locations, or remaining in an off-campus house, managing the coronavirus can be incredibly stressful for a given group of students. Students must juggle these logistical issues in addition to the already existing pressures of school. For many this is coupled with the inconveniences of being far from home and lacking access to a car or kitchen. This stress is then magnified by the varying and unique perspectives of each person’s own view of Covid-19 as well as their own experience with the virus.
Student interviews reveal the means by which Covid-19 has helped to guarantee one’s physical health, but not without negatively affecting one’s mental health. In a discussion of the Tulane University Covid-19 testing process, Matthew Rosenblum, a junior living off-campus, explains, “The scheduling process is very easy and simple, and the tests are administered quickly and effectively. It is nice to know, weekly, that I am healthy.” He continues, “the testing has definitely made my life easier.”
Contrary to Rosenblum’s experience is that of Brielle Geisler. Geisler is a sophomore and a resident of Irby Hall who quarantined at an off-campus location with her suite of eight students earlier this semester. Geisler explains, “most students already feel trapped in their dorm due to all the rules and limitations enforced by the school. I understand that health is the concern here, but mental health is also a major concern.” She continues, “the emptiness on campus, online school, and limitations from seeing our friends is greatly affecting many student’s mental health, including mine and many of my friends.”
As proven by the varied response of the student body, it is crucial to comprehensively assess all the effects of the coronavirus. This will ensure the University creates an environment which breeds success. In the confines of the coronavirus pandemic this success may take the form of making it through the day without hearing one of your friends tested positive for Covid-19, avoiding feelings of homesickness, submitting an assignment on time, or taking a moment to focus on one’s self.
We can only hope that from the death and destruction of the coronavirus we all grow a little more sympathetic of one another. Circumstance such as the coronavirus pandemic reminds us to take nothing for granted and allow for a new sense of flexibility and kindness to infiltrate our understanding of one another.