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Students express confusion over campus COVID-19 guidelines as cases rise

<h5>McCosh infirmary, East entrance.</h5>
<h6>Angel Kuo / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
McCosh infirmary, East entrance.
Angel Kuo / The Daily Princetonian

Undergraduate COVID-19 cases on campus have been on the rise since move-in, with a 20.91 percent positivity rate among undergraduates in the week ending Sept. 9. Some of the students who have tested positive expressed confusion with the University’s isolation policy and resources.

According to the University COVID-19 Dashboard, 112 positive cases were recorded between Monday, Sept. 12 and Friday, Sept. 16.

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Kristen Ahner ’23, a student currently in isolation, said she felt frustration over what felt like a lack of support from the University for those who tested positive. 

“Because the University doesn't have their restrictive [COVID-19] policies in place, it seems like all of [the University’s] support was also removed,” Ahner said. “I had trouble getting in touch with professors and asking them what I can do about not being in class.”

In a July announcement from University Health Services (UHS), the University shifted away from providing isolation housing as it did in previous semesters, implementing a system in which students who have tested positive for COVID-19 were required to isolate in place instead. Administrators signaled a shift toward “pre-COVID-19 schedules,” making testing and mask-wearing optional.

The University policy changes over the summer followed updated Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance with respect to the pandemic, which removed the requirement for quarantine upon exposure in addition to reducing the emphasis on asymptomatic testing. 

One source of confusion, some students said, has been what a few saw as conflicting information from Campus Dining and Global and Community Health.

An email from Global and Community Health, seen by The Daily Princetonian, instructed students who tested positive for COVID-19 to isolate for five days and register for isolation meals via a provided link. 

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Shortly after that initial email, students who tested positive received an email from Paper Tiger, Campus Dining’s on-campus catering company, directing them to reply with their dietary restrictions and informing them of meal pickup locations. That email also stated that students who are in eating clubs should reach out to their eating club directly — leaving those who had already registered for the meals in what they said felt like a confusing position.

Katie Chou ’23, who is in an eating club, told the ‘Prince’ that she had already emailed Campus Dining, as she had been advised, by the time she received the second email from Paper Tiger.

“Then [Campus Dining] just started providing me meals that I would go pick up, I didn't think I even qualified for them,” Chou said. 

A junior who was granted anonymity due to medical privacy concerns said they felt similarly confused. 

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“I didn’t get any information about going to pick up food,” they wrote to the ‘Prince.’ “I only got an email saying I have dining points.”

“Someone else [in isolation] shared that dining told them they don’t get meals for being in an eating club, but then someone [I know] in an eating club is getting meals at the [Private Dining Room].”

Ahner, the student currently in isolation, told the ‘Prince’ that she had difficulty finding relevant information about obtaining meals as most of the policies that were publicly available seemed to be from last year.

Ahner tested positive on Tuesday and asked her roommate to bring her food from the U-Store on Wednesday, before coordinating with her eating club on Wednesday night to bring her meals. 

“I just can't believe that I wasn't able to figure out how to get [food from the University] while they're telling me to isolate in my room for five days,” she said.

Chou and Ahner both shared that they intend to make use of the University's Paw Points initiative once they get out of quarantine. The program now provides students with $45 per day, to be used on meals for five days following isolation.

Anika Buch is an associate News editor at the ‘Prince’ who typically covers STEM communities and on-campus research. She can be reached at ambuch@princeton.edu. 

Sandeep Mangat is an associate News editor who has reported on labor shortages on and off campus, University guidelines regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and research led by Princeton faculty. He can be reached at smangat@princeton.edu and on Twitter @s_smangat. 

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