Move-in day is Feb 19, and the Student Health Center is preparing to test the many students returning to campus after winter break. Due to the sharp rise of COVID-19 cases in California at the end of 2020, the school pushed back the date for students to return to their dorms. Now, hundreds of students from all over are returning to HSU and the Student Health Center is getting ready to test all of them, particularly if the planned return to limited face-to-face classes begins in the fall semester.
According to HSU spokesperson Grant Scott-Goforth, the school has been testing constantly to keep an eye on campus COVID-19 cases.
“They have been administering a few hundred tests per week, but that’s expected to go up as students move back and face-to-face classes commence,” Scott-Goforth said. “The Health Center has conducted a total of 5,013 tests since they began testing.”
All this comes not long after a new strain of the virus, which is more contagious, was first reported in Humboldt County. While Humboldt had been lucky enough to have relatively low rates of positive cases, those numbers have steadily increased and pushed the county into the highest restrictive COVID tier. This comes at a time when many still do not qualify for vaccines and those who do have difficulty getting them.
HSU is anticipating about 350 students which may increase the number of positive significantly. According to Scott-Goforth the positivity rate on campus is relatively low.
“The positivity rate is 1.3% among students, and has increased slightly since testing began,” Scott-Goforth said. “For comparison, the positivity rate for Humboldt County is 4.03% and statewide it’s 6.9%.”
Continued lockdown means the negative effects on students’ mental health are likely to continue as well. According to Student Health Operations Coordinator Elizabeth McCallion. The counseling office is maintaining several programs made to help students deal with stress and to socialize with other students on campus.
“We have two support groups that students moving back on campus would particularly benefit from,” McCallion said. “The first is Breaking Isolation, which is focused on finding support, connection, and understanding in this time of social distancing. The second is the living on-campus support group, which is a great group for building community with others living on campus.”
The links to both support groups can be found on the Counseling web page.
Despite the risks and challenges of living on campus during the pandemic, many students remain hopeful that the school will provide adequate safety precautions to keep them from getting sick or helping them if they do with quarantine rooms and medical care. HSU student America Hernandez thinks the school is doing a decent job at keeping students safe.
“I do think they are doing a good job,” Hernandez said. “Since they require COVID tests to move in and encourage self-evaluation of symptoms.”