I think all students would agree their winter break has been overtaken with something else besides relaxation and the holidays: the omicron variant, the latest stretch of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
I’ve personally had a total of two COVID-19 scares, three rapid tests, one PCR test and several family members and friends who have had it over the past few weeks. Needless to say, it has pretty much defined my winter break, and I am sure I’m not alone in this experience.
It’s been a tough few weeks for everyone when it comes to deciding what’s safe, what isn’t, figuring out where or how they can get tested and trying to decipher the ever-changing CDC guidelines.
Last week, I started to wonder how Montclair State University was going to handle coming back to school with this new strain, especially after hearing Rutgers University plans to do only remote learning until Jan. 31 and will be requiring students to get a booster shot in order to come back to campus. I was surprised when we didn’t hear of any plans until a week before I planned to move back onto campus.
Residential students received an email on the afternoon of Jan. 9 from Residence Life citing new details regarding move-in day for the spring 2022 semester.
Move-in day is now move-in days, as they have staggered it from Saturday, Jan. 15 to Monday, Jan. 17. Additionally, all students must receive a negative PCR test result before moving to campus, and the test must be done on or after Wednesday, Jan.12.
I am a bit baffled, to say the least. As someone who has had their fair share of COVID-19 scares and tests this winter break, I’m not entirely sure how this is going to work for students.
As the omicron variant surges through the country, PCR tests are hard to come by these days. Most walk-in sites are nearly impossible to get into. I would know; I stood outside in the cold for a total of four hours waiting for a test I never got at the beginning of winter break.
Luckily, by-appointment PCR testing does secure you a test but they can be difficult to find, especially when you have less than a week’s notice. This also creates a tight deadline for moving in.
According to CVS, most of their lab tests take one or two days but this isn’t always the case. As of last week, there were over five tests given out per thousand people in the United States, which is a lot of results to go through.
I had an unfortunate experience a couple of weeks ago with a local clinic that never got my PCR results back to me. This was an isolated experience, but mishaps like this put returning resident students under even more stress.
Montclair State is offering free testing at Webster Hall, but this does not aid students like me who live out-of-state or far away.
Thus far I have been impressed with Montclair State’s policies regarding COVID-19 and you can’t argue that these policies, as well as the collaboration of the community, have kept the numbers at Montclair State pretty low.
I cannot say the same for their plan for the beginning of the upcoming semester. Due to the high demand for COVID-19 tests and the limited time period in which to plan for students returning, I do not have faith that this move-in weekend will go smoothly.
Students were simply not given enough notice to find a PCR test, and there is a good chance that many students will be missing from the first few days of classes. The way administration handled this pressing concern is inconsiderate to Montclair State students and their time.
I am calling on the university to reconsider their back-to-school plans and to give students more time to properly test at home and come back to campus feeling refreshed, safe and healthy.