Several upstate New York Schools have already transferred to online learning because of a spike in coronavirus cases. So why has Syracuse, a university that is relatively large in size, been successful in keeping students on campus this semester? In large part, the success can be attributed to the precautions and intricate plan that Syracuse University has in place for its students who either contract the virus or come in close contact with someone who has it.
How do I know all of this? Because I am going through it right now.
On October 1st, I found out that someone who I was in close contact with had Covid-19. What did that mean for me? I already had the coronavirus back in March, and I had tested positive for antibodies, so I knew I had a fighters chance of not getting sick again (and luckily, I did not.) But did being in contact with someone who had Covid-19 warrant a quarantine on my part anyway? I would soon come to find out the answer would be yes.
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Admittedly, this realization did bring some anxiety with it, as I knew this would mean I would miss two weeks of in-person classes. That being said, now that I am almost on the other side of the quarantine, I have to commend Syracuse University for all of the precautions they have put in place. It keeps students on campus. It keeps athletes playing games. At the very least, now I get to write a story about the experience. Lemonade out of lemons, right? Isn’t that what 2020 is all about? Here’s how it all went down.
Step 1: Calling the Barnes Health Center (After I Found Out the News)
The first logical step was to get in touch with the health center to find out what I was supposed to do, and where I was supposed to go. I spoke to a doctor who told me the first step was going to Flanagan gym to get tested. Interestingly enough, if I tested positive for Covid-19, the doctor told me I only would have to quarantine for 10 days. If I was negative, I would have to quarantine for 14 days. The reason why is because it can take up to 14 days after the virus for a person to develop symptoms.
Step 2: Getting Tested at Flanagan
This is where my admiration for Syracuse began. Flanagan is part of a center on Syracuse’s campus across the street from the Barnes Health Center that had been completely transformed into a coronavirus testing center. The tests they administer are rapid, so you wait in the center until the results come back. Then the doctor who tells you your results is the one who tells you where you are headed next depending on what the result is. My result came back negative. Translation: Off to the Sheraton Hotel to quarantine.
Step 3: Quarantining at the Sheraton
I think that this is where the differentiation between Syracuse and other universities was illuminated. After my negative test result, the doctor from the Barnes Health Center instructed me to go home, pack up my things (as much as I would need for 14 days), and head straight to the Sheraton. I have talked to other SU students that have also quarantined. They say that one of the biggest differences between Syracuse and other universities that their friends attend is that SU has an immediate shelter for those who have to quarantine. Many other universities left students with nowhere to go.
Not only did SU provide me with an exact location and book the room for me, but they also paid for it. SU pays for every night that one of their students stays in the Sheraton. They also pay for the parking. Little did I know that was just the start of SU’s generosity.
When I got into the room, I saw several pamphlets and other pieces of paper. Each of them outlined something different. One was from Dr. Karen Nardella, the Medical Director at the Barnes Health Center. This letter outlined all of the rules for the quarantine stay as well as the things that SU would provide. Here are the key points:
1. The letter starts by saying “we understand that this is an incredibly difficult time for you,” which to me shows their sincerity towards the situation
2. The university schedules three meals a day (that are paid for). The daily menu can be found in the room and you call the hotel with special dietary needs.
3. Outside food deliveries are permitted (you were also allowed to order anything you wanted from the hotel menu)
4. A member of the Dean of Students Office team will be checking in with you (which she did)
5. A website to a list of virtual events was provided so you could still feel connected to your peers.
In my opinion, all of the bullet points on that list were signs that Syracuse really knew their students were hurting, and they cared.
For example, the food, as promised, was delivered three times each day. Some students who I spoke to were slightly displeased that the meals showed up during classes and they didn’t have a microwave to heat up hot food items, but to them it was only a minor inconvenience. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were different each day, and if you wanted to make minor substitutions, you could call and ask. I did request a substitution once and the hotel staff said it wouldn’t be a problem. Additionally, if a student didn’t like what was being served, and they opted to order something different off of the hotel menu, there was a 10% SU student discount.
SU paid for many things during my quarantine (hotel, parking, food, etc.), but they demonstrated more than just financial support. They also showed emotional support. One student told me that she walked into a room with several resources waiting for her upon arrival. Among them, a flu kit with cough drops and tissues as well as a mental health kit containing coloring sheets and Play-Doh.
Another student told me that she really appreciated the woman who called from the Dean of Students office to check on her. She said that hearing someone’s voice and being able to ask a person questions was much easier than trying to sift through a website to find all of those answers.
Step 4: Being Released From the Sheraton
In certain cases, SU students who are quarantining will be released from the Sheraton and given permission to ride out the remainder of their quarantine at their house. These are the requirements:
1) You must have someone else pump your gas before you leave
2) You must be able to drive home without stopping (for food, to use the bathroom, etc.)
3) You must have access to your own room and own bathroom
If these qualifications can be met, then you may be released from the Sheraton if Onondoga County approves it. As grateful as I was to SU and the Sheraton for hosting me, the news that I could at least be quarantining in a room that was my own as opposed to a hotel room was revitalizing.
Why is all of this important? In my opinion, there are two main reasons.
First, SU’s extensive quarantining procedures are one of the main reasons that students, and athletes, have been kept safe. Not only does this mean students get to feel a sense of normalcy because they are staying on campus, but they also get to attend classes in person which for many is the preferred style of learning.
Secondly, our athletes can continue to play. For those who may not know, SU will shut down its campus if the university reaches 100 coronavirus cases. SU’s plan of action each time a student has Covid-19 or is in danger of contracting it may be one of the main reasons that SU athletes have been able to have a season. And I think we’d all like to keep it that way.