We’ve all gotten that dreadful one-liner text from a friend this week: “I’m positive.”
I’m confident that most, if not all, Tulane students are shocked by the surge in COVID cases swarming through campus right now. While leaving campus on Monday, it became unclear if a student with a suitcase meant heading home for the holidays or to the Hyatt to quarantine the next ten days. Tulane’s campus created an apocalyptic sense of impending doom while awaiting the answer to, “Who’s next?”
Tulane students have dealt with an odd semester from the start, beginning with Hurricane Ida, the ensuing evacuations, and remote school for most of September. Since then, I feel as though the semester has been defined by Hurricane Ida rather than COVID, which has been the world’s most prominent issue for almost two years now.
However, about four days ago, I heard of a boy in my class testing positive for COVID. This seemed almost unusual because students have been contracting the disease this semester, but nowhere near the rate occurring right now.
According to the Tulane Covid Dashboard, on December 6th, there was one individual who tested positive. Within one day, there were 13 new cases. Between December 7th to December 11th, there have been 113 new cases. And on December 16th, 183 cases of COVID were detected that day. While this may seem like a lot, this does not account for the many students who have not been tested or tested outside of campus.
Tulane has always made getting tested relatively simple. You get a QR code, go to the testing center located in the center of campus, and receive your results reasonably quickly. A negative test comes back in about one day, but a positive test can take as many as three days. By Sunday, December 12th, after the build-up of cases, the reality of the contagion ramped up, and the lines for testing were flowing through the streets of campus. Many students resorted to at-home tests from pharmacies, many of which were challenging to get your hands on and retail for about $25 a box.
This week, Tulane students have been faced with fears of contracting the virus, the possibility of spreading it to friends or family when returning home and being in New Orleans over the holidays to finish their ten-day quarantine. On top of this, finals week has begun, which we still have despite having two extra weeks of classes to make up for the days lost during the Hurricane.
While I have lost count of how many friends are positive, I also am losing track of deadlines. In fact, I am writing this spontaneously instead of focusing on my 14-page essay due in two days. That said, I will get it done, but school is certainly not the core of what we are all focused on right now.
As of writing this, all classes have been marked as optional to be in person. Some teachers have even made the finals themselves optional, which before COVID would seem almost unheard of. Despite the strange juxtaposition of President Fitts’ email, “Option to Complete Semester remotely,” paired with Tulane Dining informing us that there will be breakfast for dinner tomorrow, the Tulane community is struck by the severity of the contagion that this Omicron variant is imposing. We are all waiting to see how the administration will address what lies ahead.
Many students repeat, “this is not real,” as the reality of the spread has become almost unfathomably ominous. My Instagram feed is flooded with captions of “Tulane is a simulation,” and tik-toks of Tulane students quarantining are going viral. While many students are upset with how the school is handling this, did anyone know or expect this surge? Was it the premature lift of the mask mandate or the countless holiday parties seen in the past weeks? Who knows.
But with an Irish goodbye to the Tulane campus, I wish everyone luck and hope everyone stays safe.
Cover photo: Twitter (TeebsGaming)