COVID-19 case uncertainty following fall break

Francia Benson

Colleges and universities struggled with the dilemma of whether or not to cancel fall break in order to minimize the exposure to COVID-19.

Over fall break the campus had very few students studying. (Robert Lewis / The Signpost)
Over fall break, campus saw few students studying in person. (Robert Lewis / The Signpost)

Weber State University decided to continue with the established school calendar, which included one fall break day on Oct. 16.

It was uncertain whether students would travel or stay home. Therefore, to prevent the possibility of infection spreading on campus, some colleges and universities canceled fall break.

Dane LeBlanc, director of public safety, explained that WSU precautions are still in place for students returning from traveling: face covering, hand washing and social distancing.

A press release from Oct. 19 stated that those students who have traveled to counties or regions with high COVID transmission may be asked to isolate for the 14 day period.

“We continue to encourage you, when considering your personal travel choices, to follow travel advisories issued by your local and state authorities,” LeBlanc said. “If you choose to travel, you may be restricted from returning to work, depending upon the specifics of your circumstances.”

The email also noted that Utah has now been listed as a high transmission state.

One of the worries is that students traveling will spread the virus without knowing they have it until they have already been in contact with classmates and professors.

LeBlanc stated that it is the same situation the university is dealing with on a daily basis. They do not know if a student is going to class infected.

WSU has started testing symptomatic students for COVID-19. Even though asymptomatic students can spread the virus, LeBlanc explained they are not in a position to test them because the university only has access to 2,000 tests.

He added that it would be wasting test kits if students started getting tested just because they had traveled.

Some states have implemented travel restrictions to visitors coming from other states, including Utah. Travelers are required to quarantine for 14 days. Utah does not currently have any of these travel restrictions.

Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks were at full capacity during this past weekend, but it will be a matter of time before we see if positive cases start to peak.

In a statement sent to students and university employees, LeBlanc explained that to get tested, students and employees have to fill a self-report and present symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, muscle and body aches and fatigue.

The statement also indicated that the Marriott Allied Health Building on the Ogden campus is the designated place for testing. Students get a swab and are given instructions to self-collect a nasal sample.

“I can not overstate how important it is that all members of our campus community self-report as soon as they begin to exhibit signs of COVID-19 symptoms,” LeBlanc expressed.

Tonya Simons, a Master of English student, said she worries about people not following safety precautions. She said some young people think the virus can’t affect them, but more young people are getting sick.

LeBlanc explained that if any student in the dorms shows symptoms, they get tested, and they are moved to rooms called isolation or quarantine rooms.

He also explained that if the university has a significant outbreak, there is a potential to move classes online, such as was done in March. He said that the state would direct it and that the university will follow the local health department’s directions and said the university will continue to take precautions to ensure student safety.