Opinion: ASU needs academic protocols for students who test positive for COVID-19

With thousands of students affected by COVID-19, there needs to be protocol in place for students to get time off of class if they test positive

As ASU reopened campus in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, the community saw a rise in COVID-19 cases at the beginning of both semesters. Thousands of students were told to quarantine, and while some remained asymptomatic, others became sick and unable to do work. Despite the waves of infection, ASU currently has no uniform protocol for lessening the academic load of students who become sick without placing the responsibility of seeking help on students.

In addition to connecting students with Educational Outreach and Support Services and doing check-ins with them, the University is recommending students who test positive for COVID-19 to reach out to resources such as ASU Health Services, deans of students and their professors for support. Students are also required to do a daily health check that assesses whether or not students should be on campus.

ASU has continued to do daily health checks, even though COVID screenings aren't the best way to manage the spread of the disease. Not only are these health checks annoying, but they also do not take asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission into account, even though people without symptoms can still spread the virus. It also requires the students to be completely honest, which may not always happen. This makes the screenings ineffective. 

This shouldn’t be the case, as some students may be too sick to even get out of bed, much less send several emails. This also assumes that all students have personal devices and internet access, yet many of them frequently come to campus for those provisions.

While many students' experiences with obtaining accommodations have been positive, this isn’t the case for everyone. Some report having professors refuse to extend deadlines or allow students to make up important exams and projects. 

Most professors would send out announcements or include them in the syllabus, according to Irann Cabrera, a senior studying psychology. Cabrera tested positive for the virus last winter break. He was mostly recovered by the time the Spring 2021 semester began but still reported feeling fatigued.

The issue with ASU's current case-by-case protocol for students who test positive is that it assumes the student's responsibility to manage their academic absence. Anyone who has looked at Rate my Professors or recalls a situation where a professor did not take COVID-19 seriously, will know that not everyone is understanding. Professors are humans too, and not all of them realize that COVID-19 can seriously impact students' health, even if they are young and seemingly healthy.

Although it may be too little too late, ASU should put a uniform protocol in place applied to all students who test positive for COVID-19 because quarantine can have an impact on students' mental health, and some people can take several days to show symptoms.

This protocol should require all professors to offer extended deadlines of at least 10 days, which is the minimum quarantine period for someone who tests positive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The protocol should also allow students to retake exams that would otherwise have rigid deadlines, as students do not choose to test positive for COVID-19 during the same week of an exam; they should not be punished, especially since the student may have contracted the virus at ASU.

"I think it would help more if ASU had a protocol for students who currently or previously caught the virus," Cabrera said. "Because they could still have lingering symptoms, even for months. Especially because we still don't know everything about this virus." 

This protocol would acknowledge the fact that thousands of students and faculty are becoming sick with COVID-19, and would show that ASU cares for the well-being and success of these people by giving them all fair treatment. 


Reach the columnist at htenore@asu.edu or follow @haleyyhmt on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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