Recent posts on social media regarding a potential COVID-19 outbreak in Goodwin-Kirk Residence Hall have sparked fear and outrage amongst Drake University students.
In response, the Drake University Emergency Operations Center sent an email to students and faculty members on Sept. 2 around 5 P.M.
“Last evening we became aware of new self-reported cases and those individuals are now safely in isolation,” stated the email. “Our contact tracing team has been in touch with those who had direct exposure to these positive cases and those individuals are now quarantined.”
Goodwin-Kirk resident Savannah Schaefer began showing self-reported symptoms, such as confusion and loss of smell and taste, on Monday, Aug. 31. Her roommate had started showing symptoms two days earlier and went on to test positive for the virus.
“[Drake’s] solution for the three of us, me and my two other roommates, was to just isolate for 14 days. We asked them if they wanted us to get tested at all or anything, and they were like, no, just quarantine in your room,” Schaefer said. “I’m disappointed in the fact that we had to take it into our own hands to go get tested.”
In an email, Provost Sue Mattison clarified that Drake’s contact tracing team follows protocol learned through John Hopkins University’s contact tracing training program.
“Students who meet the criteria of a ‘contact’ will be notified by one of the contact tracers that they have been exposed and should self-quarantine, [which is a] different protocol than isolation,” Mattison said. “The communication contains all of the information needed by the quarantined student.”
Schaefer independently decided to get tested, and her results came back positive. She then emailed Dean of Students Jerry Parker and within five minutes, she was on the phone to discuss next steps and contact tracing.
“I felt like that was a really good reaction time,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer has since been moved into Ross Residence Hall for an isolation period. However, Schaefer is not the only student affected. Schaefer reports that at least two individuals in a neighboring room, who Schaefer and her roommates have interacted with, have also recently moved into Ross.
“Any student who tests positive for COVID is isolated away from the general student population,” said Provost Sue Mattison in an email. “We have a few locations for isolating students, including all of Ross Hall.”
Although students on social media have referred to these cases as an “outbreak,” Mattison says that is not the case.
“The term ‘outbreak’ has a specific epidemiologic connotation, meaning an epidemic, and this is not an ‘outbreak,’” Mattison said. “We’ve identified cases, and we’ve identified their contacts. As we’ve stated, we expect to have cases on campus, which is why we are doing surveillance.”
In response to the lack of information surrounding COVID-19 case numbers on campus, The Times-Delphic released a petition demanding the release of raw case numbers and the creation of a COVID Peer Advisory Board. When asked for comment on the petition, Mattison directed attention to the recent EOC email, referencing surveillance testing.
“There will be additional cases in the coming weeks,” the email said. “Identifying such is the very point of our random testing program. We will continue to respond quickly to care for those who test positive and those with whom they have been in contact. We will continue to share updates regarding our testing programs and our isolation, contact tracing, and quarantine efforts in this format as we have been doing since the start of the pandemic earlier this year.”
The EOC email also stated that less than 10% of isolation beds are currently in use. Despite this positive news, the email clarifies students should not relax when it comes to proper social distancing or other safety measures.
The Times-Delphic reached out to Associate Dean of Students Tony Tyler this morning but have yet to receive a comment.
Sept. 2, 2020: We will continue to update this as the story develops