Relaxed COVID-19 protocols prompt excitement, concern

Katherine Dawson, Contributing Reporter

A Hullabaloo archive photograph of a COVID-19 testing station in Paterson Hall from February 2021. (Daisy Rymer)

Tulane University dropped surveillance COVID-19 testing and off-campus isolation policies this month, marking a shift towards normalcy as the school enters its fifth full semester of the pandemic. 

For many students, the more lenient protocols are cause for celebration. 

“Everyone in the world right now is probably desperate to get back to normal,” senior Claire Stephens said. “For young people, I know [the pandemic] was really hard mentally, and I think that the fact that Tulane was open probably did help a lot of people’s mental health.”  

Dylan Wray, a sophomore living on campus, said he feels Tulane has done a “really good job” with the changes, and he wonders if the university should continue surveillance COVID-19 testing like they did in previous semesters. 

“But at the same time, I think we’ll be okay without it,” Wray said. 

Students interviewed said they take comfort in Tulane’s high vaccination rate and subsequently feel protected under the wing of the required COVID-19 vaccines. Tulane requires all students to submit proof of vaccination, including booster shots except for those who are approved for an exemption.  

“Everybody’s young, everybody’s vaccinated, so nobody really seems to give too much of a thought about it,” Wray said. 

The dropped testing and isolation protocols mark a distinct change from measures enforced earlier in the pandemic. Students were once required to test three times a week, and the university sent students who tested positive and their close contacts into isolation in the Paterson Residence Hall and Downtown New Orleans hotels.  

Now, Susan Hassig, an epidemiologist at Tulane, holds a different stance towards the changed procedures. 

Tulane is loosening things a little bit quicker than they should, much as the CDC has loosened things up quicker than I think they should have,” Hassig said. 

She warned students that “we are still in very high transmission levels all around the country and in the entire state of Louisiana,” and that it is extremely important to uphold these current COVID-19 protocols. 

Hassig advised being diligent about protecting individual and community health. 

“Unfortunately, the virus is still here,” she said. “We are still losing between 400 to 500 people in a day in the US as a whole.”

Tulane discontinued its COVID-19 dashboard after ending surveillance testing. In total, the University has administered 524,665 COVID-19 tests since July 2020. 

But Dr. David Mushatt, a professor at Tulane’s Medical School, said the new protocols are “reasonable and realistic.” 

COVID-19 is not going away completely,” he said. “We have to learn how to live with it.” 

“As long as there’s a place to get tested when you do have symptoms, we think that this policy will work,” Mushatt said.

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