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Premature release from quarantine, slow test results among issues faced by IU students



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The Informatics and Communications Technology Complex, located on the IUPUI campus, is home to one of the contact tracing workstations. Many students have had issues with IU's contact tracing system. Courtesy Photo

On the night of Sept. 12, IU senior Sydney Granlund received a text from IU’s contact tracing team telling her to call them as soon as possible to discuss an urgent matter.

Granlund had taken an IU-administered symptomatic test for COVID-19 the day before after losing her sense of taste and experiencing  what she said felt like “the worst allergies of my life.” She didn’t expect the text from contact tracers because she had not yet received any messages about her test result.

When the contact tracer told her over the phone that her test result was positive, she said she felt overwhelmed.

“It would have been nice to have some time to maybe process my results and then go through the interview process,” Granlund said.

Over the phone, the contact tracer told her to expect a phone call from IU Health informing her about her test result. Granlund said she never did, although her result was sent to her through the IU Health Virtual Visits app.

According to IU’s flowchart regarding testing, close contacts and Twistle monitoring students who test positive after symptomatic testing should receive a call from IU Health prior to being contacted for contact tracing. 

Emma Goldner, an IU junior who lives with Granlund off-campus, fell sick around the same time Granlund did and was tested on Sept. 5. For at least 72 hours, she did not hear back from anyone about her test result. Only after she called the IU Health Center on Sept. 9 did she receive a secure email notifying her of her negative test result.

IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said symptomatic test results generally take between 48-72 hours to come back. He said students should visit the IU Health Virtual Visits app to check their results if they don’t receive a call. He said all students who test positive will be called directly by the IU Health nursing team.

On Sept. 16, just 12 days into her self-quarantine, Goldner received a message on Twistle, the app IU uses to monitor students’ COVID symptoms, releasing her from self-quarantine. She said she called a representative from IU Health, who told her the Twistle message was incorrect and Sept. 19 would be her first day out of quarantine.

“It’s been very confusing,” she said. “It feels like no one really knows what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Carney said Goldner's case is not a systematic issue with the app and not something he has heard many reports about. He said one example of why an error could occur is if a student enters their date of infection incorrectly in the app.

Opposite of Goldner’s experience, sophomore Jacob Haggarty was never medically cleared to end his quarantine despite having already completed his 14 days.

At the end of their isolation or quarantine periods, students should be prompted through Twistle to virtually contact an IU Health nurse, which is the only way to be medically cleared to end their isolation or quarantine, according to IU’s fall 2020 FAQ page.

Haggarty said it was only after he called contact tracers two days after his quarantine ended that he finally received confirmation of his release from quarantine.

Carney said this may be because of confusion or miscommunication about the quarantine start date. He said students can call 317-944-8110, an IU Health phone number for questions related to the symptom monitoring process, if they disagree with the quarantine end date and need a release. For questions and appeals about quarantine start dates, students should call the IU Health Center at 812-855-4848.

Haggarty said he called contact tracers because he wanted to return to his in-person class but didn’t want to face disciplinary action for not being officially cleared from quarantine. He said he felt anxiety about accidentally breaking a rule and facing discipline from IU. 

“What made me more frustrated about IU is that they hold that power, so with that power it just becomes anxiety and fear to the point where I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong but I was anxious about it anyways,” he said.

Haggarty said he knows it’s hard for the university to coordinate a COVID-19 response for so many students, but he said IU should communicate its rules more clearly.

“I’m here to come to college and learn,” he said. “I’m trying to follow the rules, and I am following the rules, but it just feels like I have to do so much extra work to find out what those rules are.”

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