Students react to new COVID-19 guidelines with recent spike and shift to Phase Two

COVID-19+testing+station+in+Patterson+Hall

Daisy Rymer

COVID-19 testing station in Patterson Hall

Jessie Lehman, Contributing Reporter

Friday, Jan. 29,  New Orleans transitioned to a Modified Phase Two plan. This plan requires mask-wearing in public places and when with anyone outside of your household — indoors or outdoors — other than when exercising and actively eating or drinking. 

Additionally, capacity regulations were loosened from Phase One. Indoor gathering sizes were increased from six to 10 masked individuals practicing social distancing. Outdoor gathering capacity is now set at 25 masked individuals practicing social distancing. Masked and socially distant gatherings between individuals not in the same household are also now permitted. Indoor and outdoor tables at bars and restaurants are now permitted to seat 10 individuals rather than six. As true for Phase One, Tulane classes over 25 students, and necessary resources, such as indoor dining at The Commons and Lavin-Bernick Center, are authorized. 

President Mike Fitts sent out an email Thursday, Jan. 28, which urged Tulane students to follow the new guidelines of Phase Two. In the email, the administration also set forth new guidelines for a “Safer at Home” campus amid the first major COVID-19 spike of the semester. Part of these new guidelines encouraged students to limit any unnecessary interactions and stay at their residences. Fitts elaborated that while in-person classes have been deemed safe, all other in-person student programming is cancelled. Tulane is also limiting off-campus students to The Dining Pavilion. Additionally, the university has suspended all intramural sports and fan attendance at all athletic programs. 

Tulane will continue their rigorous testing program in an attempt to mitigate the spread and to recover from the recent spike of positive tests. Additionally, certain organizations on campus, including sororities and fraternities, are asked to be tested everyday. This is due to a high rate of positive tests in Greek organizations during a recent spike. 

In response to these new guidelines, some students feel that Tulane is placing too much blame and responsibility on their students. Among those are junior Adam Mathura and sophomore Maya Scholder. 

“It’s very much like ‘you guys didn’t follow the rules and now we are facing the repercussions’ when really students are 18-year-olds who need social stimulation and to be happy and to not have bad mental health. So expecting 8,000 of them to come back to school and no one to interact and no one to break the rules is kind of unreasonable,” Mathura said. 

“It’s really putting the onus on students to report each other which obviously feels very uncomfortable,” Scholder said when asked about the anonymous reporting system. 

Sophomore Francie Benjamin posed another difficulty with Tulane’s response to violations. Benjamin mentioned the $500 fine for having too many people in a residence hall room. 

“For some people who have the ability to pay full tuition and aren’t worried as much about money, that’s just a slap on the wrist,” Benjamin said. “But for other people, that’s probably like two or three months of their allowance for Tulane.” 

This financial aspect allows some students to fear punishment less than others, thereon violating guidelines, spreading the virus and having no significant discipline. Due to the inconsistent nature of COVID-19 guidelines and regulations, Benjamin believes that students do not take the new emails and guidelines as seriously. 

“You get back to school and you make all of these plans and it’s almost mob mentality where because you’re with so many people you all kind of think the same way and kind of crap on what the emails are saying,” Benjamin said. “But if you were at home you could kind of vent to your parents and then they provide the alternative. Like they could be like ‘you could not be going back at all’ type of thing.”

Similarly, Mathura thinks there are other strategies that could have included more clear and restrictive guidelines that would contain the inevitable second-semester spread. Mathura suggested  “taking the first two weeks and only doing online, and then transitioning into in-person once the COVID spike has been handled a bit better.” 

“Our numbers are already trending downward and we will continue our Safer-at-Home restrictions until Feb. 11,” Fitts said via Mike Strecker, executive vice director of public relations. “At that time we will review where we stand and determine next steps.  Because of our aggressive testing protocols, we have been able to quickly quarantine students who were exposed to prevent further transmission.”