Number of Students “Quarantining in Place” from COVID Exposure Not Reflected in College’s Public Dashboard Figures

Rebecca Agababian '21, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The college’s COVID dashboard features the number of students using Dickinson’s allocated isolation/quarantine space, but not the total number of students isolating from exposure to COVID on campus, according to Associate Vice President of Student Life Angie Harris.

Since the start of the spring 2021 semester, the college has implemented a tracking system to mitigate the spread of COVID on campus. Among other measures, this tracking has included displaying the information on the dashboard available to the public on the college’s website. 

The dashboard, which is updated daily, features figures like the number of active COVID cases on campus, the seven-day COVID positivity rate for Dickinson in comparison with county and state-wide rates, and the number of students residing in the college’s pre-allocated isolation and quarantine space because of close contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID.

However, the latter figure does not reflect the total number of students who have been contacted by the college to quarantine but are using their original housing assignments to do so. This quarantine option, known as a “quarantine in place,” is for pods in which one of its members has tested positive for COVID. Pod members who are quarantining in place are required to remain in their own rooms except to use the bathroom, and to wear a mask whenever they leave their rooms.

As of Tuesday, April 27, the college’s COVID dashboard reflected that 11 students were using the college’s quarantine and isolation space: about 14% of the total spaces the college set aside for quarantine and isolation before the semester began.

Yet in an email to The Dickinsonian, Harris reported that an additional 26 students were completing a “quarantine in place,” meaning they were staying in their own rooms to isolate and not taking up the pre-allocated isolation rooms in Morgan hall. Since these students are not occupying the predetermined isolation spaces, they are not counted in the public dashboard’s count of quarantine cases.

According to Don Dominici, executive director of the college’s Wellness Center, since the beginning of the semester, 90 students have used the college’s allocated quarantine and isolation space because of having close contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19, while an additional 162 students have completed a “quarantine in place” in their original housing assignment.

According to Dominici, the decision to offer a “quarantine in place” option for pod members of a student who has tested positive was made “as a way to reduce the number of students who needed to move to a separate quarantine housing assignment on campus.” As long as all pod members have had a similar level of exposure to the student who has tested positive, the pod is allowed to quarantine in place.

“Since students on campus this semester are allowed to interact freely with their pod members and typically share a common bathroom within the pod, there is some level of risk to all pod members when one student within the pod tests positive (but not the same level of risk as someone who has had close contact with the person who tests positive),” Dominici said in an email to The Dickinsonian

Dominici said that the college’s COVID dashboard does not show the number of students quarantining in place “because students quarantining in place are not positive for COVID-19 and do not impact our available quarantine and isolation space on campus.”

Harris added that other students who had possibly been exposed to COVID had opted to move out early to spend their quarantine period at home.