As of Sept. 14, the university’s COVID-19 dashboard shows a total of 5 outbreaks in campus housing, which is a downward trend from last week’s highest total of 16. However, as many freshmen across campus begin to leave their 14-day quarantine periods, the dashboard shows a 10.4% increase in positive cases in the past seven days.
Abby Perkins, a Crosby resident, returned to campus on Sept. 7 after quarantining at home in Memphis for 14 days. The university informed her 12 days after she came in contact with someone who tested COVID-19 positive that she had to leave her floor and quarantine.
“I was very confused and told that it was highly unlikely that I would develop symptoms,” Perkins said.
She also said she thinks some of the university’s COVID-19 policies are “a little extreme.”
“If one person has it on the floor of a building, everyone on the floor should get tested, and if they do not have it, they should be allowed to stay,” Perkins said.
Currently, three outbreaks are necessary on one floor of a residence hall for the entire floor to be quarantined, and the university now allows residents to stay in their dorms during the quarantine period. However, the university has continuously changed its policies regarding quarantining students.
Brown Hall, which was originally scheduled to close this school year amid dropping enrollment rates, is an isolation housing option for students who test positive for COVID-19.
Another student, who wanted to be kept anonymous, tested positive for the virus and said the communal bathrooms in Brown were “dirty” and “full of cobwebs” when they moved in.
While total outbreaks seem to be declining, students continue to enter quarantine and isolation.
Cassandra Doscher, a Crosby resident from Georgia, was told to quarantine beginning on the morning of Sept. 11. The university offered her on-campus housing, but she chose to return home.
“I thought it was ridiculous. My parents had to pick me up,” Doscher said. “Being away from home was hard and then having to go back was not a good experience.”
According to a recent update from the Mississippi Department of Health, the isolation period for students has been reduced from 14 days to 10 days after the onset of one’s symptoms or test date if they are asymptomatic and test positive.
With the ever-changing policies, some freshmen are unsure about the university’s implementation of COVID-19 procedures. Kathryn Toepke, a freshman Pittman resident, said that the policies should be more self-mandated. According to Toepke, the only public areas residents can use are the laundry rooms.
“We can’t even use a study room if we are in there alone, and I’d like to study somewhere that isn’t my room,” Toepke said.
She also mentioned that she knew many people who ignored the university’s COVID-19 policies and ended up being sent home to quarantine.
The student housing contract’s COVID-19 addendum says that students’ non-compliance with coronavirus policies can result in removal from student housing or disciplinary actions. Students who are removed from student housing for not following pandemic guidelines are not eligible for housing refunds.
Provost Noel Wilkin recently said contact tracing results show that most students who contract the virus are doing so off-campus. Still, Toepke said she thinks the university should let dorm residents have visitors again so tracking the transmission of the virus would be easier.
“People are going to find a way to sneak around if this keeps going, I would hope the university would want to know about it instead of keeping it a secret,” Toepke said.