The first week of mitigation testing for COVID-19 at IU has forced 14 greek houses to quarantine for 14 days. Students’ immediate concern might be IU cutting the in-person semester short before making it to Thanksgiving.
In this case, it might be helpful to take a look at schools such as the University of North Carolina, which already closed campus due to COVID-19. IU needs to make changes and provide more transparency to ensure the fall semester can continue.
After closures at UNC and North Carolina State, IU has a lot to learn to avoid doing the same. The closure of certain greek houses at IU could be the beginning of a domino effect that results in the eventual shutdown of campus.
Problems at UNC came with outbreaks in the residence halls which resulted in many of their students being sent home. IU has only had issues with greek houses, but that does not mean COVID-19 could not proliferate in other clusters in the coming weeks.
IU has implemented the use of contact tracing to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The need for compliance in this process has been stressed by the university. IU has stated that students need to answer the call from the contact tracer if they get one. Then, students will have to provide the most accurate information possible about where they have been in the previous days.
In the first week of mitigation testing there were 7,872 people tested with a 3.5% positivity rate, or 274 positive cases, on Bloomington's campus. Move-in testing results showed only 346 positive cases of 33,903 students tested. The rise in cases is concerning for being only one week into mitigation testing. The positive symptomatic test rate at IU-Bloomington has more than doubled from the week of Aug. 13 to Aug. 20 from roughly 12% to 28%. While these rates are rising, symptomatic tests have only produced 132 positive cases since Aug. 1.
The limited information given by IU could present an issue in the coming weeks. Transparency is going to be key in staying open, but questions about the university’s contact tracing process still remain. Numbers on contact tracing or those in quarantine have not been made readily available to students. University spokesperson Chuck Carney did not answer questions posed by the IDS but referred the reporter to a source who has not yet responded for comment.
The lack of information coming from IU could cause students to think the situation is not as bad as it might be. If IU were to give more frequent and informative updates, this would give students a clearer view of the state of the coronavirus pandemic in Bloomington, likely causing them to be more cautious than they currently are. Instead, the lack of information threatens the containment of the coronavirus because students do not have a full picture of its effect.
We must also consider what happens to the spread of the coronavirus state and nationwide if IU's campus is shut down. The university and its students should be concerned about the implications of closing campus and sending students back home.
By sending thousands of students back home, we could inadvertently contribute to a much larger spread of the virus as increased travel would obviously make things worse. However, keeping students clustered together during an outbreak does not serve the Bloomington area well.
Knowing that the university would be trapped between two bad options, it is clear IU must do everything possible to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. This must mean the university should be more transparent about its contact tracing methods and provide its students with the most up-to-date information.
IU has a lot to watch out for in the coming weeks. They will be crucial to the semester’s chances of continuing on campus. Transparency improves the odds students will not be sent home, but as of now information is not being presented clearly by the university. IU is asking a lot of its students, but it is apparent the university must do more as well.
Armando Bracco (he/him) is a freshman studying journalism. He is interested in politics and political reporting.