COVID cases rising on campus


Mia C. Vu

While the college’s positivity population remains less than one percent, an uptick in COVID-19 cases stir up concerns among the campus community.
Eight individuals were required to start isolating due to a positive test for COVID-19 during week three of fall term, according to the campus briefing on Monday, Sept. 21. 
The uptick in the number of confirmed cases includes six students, four of those are in isolation on campus, and two employees. As of Sept. 14, 52 individuals exposed to the virus are in self-quarantine and two individuals are being sequestered due to close contact with suspected cases. 
“I’m scared that this might lead us to move to remote learning,” first-year Marthalyn Zarwolo said. To her, although the number of eight cases isn’t a sharp rise, it might be the start of a common trend. “I’m not panicking, but I’m not sure what might happen,” Zarwolo said.
Dr. Wesley Brooks, dean of students, said that the slight rise in COVID-19 positive cases does not warrant a change in campus operations. “A continuous uptick is not something we are expecting,” Brooks said.“Whatever the ongoing data indicates, the campus is prepared to handle those results.”
Brooks said that like many other campuses, Augustana has seen an uptick in positive cases during weeks three and four. This reiterates the importance of college tracing, surveillance and compliance efforts. 
Sophomore Seth Rohr is in quarantine after coming in contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19. “It kind of freaks out the student body cause they think 52 people are in quarantine probably had it already. But all of the people that I’m with here, all of us are tested negative.” 
Sophomore Gareth Kent is currently quarantining in Andreen.
“A lot of people that are in quarantine do not have the virus,” Kent said. “The number of confirmed cases and self-quarantining individuals are two different things, so everyone should know that cases are rising but not that drastically.”
Since the beginning of fall term, Augustana has hosted live, virtual briefings on the latest information about COVID-19 cases. The college has launched new policies, temporary restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus and provided detailed guidance on campus well-being. 
“I don’t think there is anything more that they could do, or anything less that they could do,” Rohr said. “They put on plastic [barriers] in the dining hall which is probably gonna help, at least with my situation, obviously.” Rohr got a negative test result on Thursday, Sept. 24.
However, it seems like the college has more room to improve when it comes to their quarantine system. 
“I think communication can be improved,” Kent said. “I got the email saying that I might have been exposed and they didn’t say when they would call back, so I was just waiting.”
  “In the email, they should have had a list of what to bring, or whatever is not provided in the quarantine house.” Rohr said.
Individuals quarantining on campus are in Andreen Halls and several spaces with private bathrooms including TLAs, Swanson and Flats. 
“The increase in the number of quarantined students is not due to intentional violations of Augustana’s COVID response efforts.” The college briefing on Monday, Sept. 21 said. Even normal interactions with those who are showing symptoms or have had a positive test can put people at risk of transmission.
“I have been very pleased with compliance and the low number of positivity rates through our testing protocol.
“I urge the entire Augie community to continue to wash their hands, wear face masks in public places and remember we are in this together,” Zarwolo said. “We all need to stay strong because this is the only way we can conquer this virus.”