On Jan. 27, the Vice President of Student Life (VPSL) office sent a campus-wide email, alerting students to a rise in COVID-19 cases primarily seen on the College of Arts and Science (CAS) campus.
According to this email, the surge began on Jan 21. The third weekly Bark newsletter of the semester confirmed this timeline as the reported number of cases from Jan. 21 to Jan. 27 was 29.
The case dashboard on Lewis & Clark’s COVID-19 Ongoing Response webpage has slightly different numbers. This dashboard reported a total number of 31 cases, split with 26 CAS on-campus cases, 3 CAS off-campus and 2 graduate school cases. The dashboard does confirm a significant uptick, as just the previous week saw a total of 6 cases overall.
Interim Director of Health Services Julie Radostitz said in an email that the week following, Jan. 27 to Feb. 3, cases increased from 31 to 41, with two of those being staff and the rest students.
“That is about a 30% increase,” Radostitz said.
With varying symptoms and other sicknesses on campus, there are likely unreported cases. Ratostitz said that somepeoplemightnotknowthatthey have the virus, so they might not test and subsequently not report it, or that some people might not know where to report cases. In general, Ratostitz said she thinks students are doing well with reporting.
“I am impressed with how many students go on to the COVID response website, which we revamped at the start of the year so it’s a little easier to use,” Ratostitz said. “… they’re doing a really good job of reporting.”
A follow-up email from Campus Living sent the following day said, “This mirrors what we saw in fall just after students return, about the same number of cases over the same number of days with a similar curve.”
Radostitz confirmed this and said that with the latest Omicron variant of COVID that after this uptick in cases, there was not expected to be an ongoing increase. She also said cases on campus are expected to go down, and they are seeing case numbers level out.
“This was right on cue with (what) Oregon Health Authority was saying about the latest Omicron variant,” Radostitz said. “It was on the East Coast at the start of our school year and they said about three weeks. It’ll hit the West Coast because we’re not a major port like the East Coast is. So it starts in Europe, moves to the East Coast, about three weeks later it hits here.”
Both the VPSL office and Campus Living emails said that mask-wearing is one of the best measures to prevent the spread of COVID and reminded students to self-monitor and test in the case of COVID symptoms or exposure.
Radostitz said that wearing a mask, maintaining distance and not attending large gatherings were the best way to protect yourself from getting COVID.
As VPSL said in their email there was a COVID booster vaccine clinic on Feb. 7.
Both emails also provided links to the “What Do I do Now” webpage. Additionally, the Campus Living email reiterated the expectations for students.
“As a refresher, the College’s expectations for those who are COVID positive is that while isolating on campus they are not to leave their room unless they are: using a bathroom, picking up meals, taking out trash, accessing essential medical care or responding to an emergency (e.g, fire) alarm,” the email read.
Lastly, each email urged students to stay vigilant in monitoring COVID-19 as the campus has few isolation beds due to ongoing renovations.
Radostitz also said that the COVID response team has adequate resources for students to get help should they need it.
“I hope they just take advantage of it because nobody should feel like they don’t have support or that they’re just suffering in their room,” Radostitz said. “We don’t want anyone to feel that way.”
However, students may be facing a more difficult time with figuring out COVID policies. Audrey Morrissey ’26, recently recovered from having COVID during the recent outbreak. She said that she was surprised to contract the Coronavirus, though she did think about rising COVID cases with everyone coming back from break.
“A bunch of people are coming back on planes probably half the time, so I did have that thought, but then I kind of forgot about it because … No one was really talking about anything,” Morrissey said.
Morrissey mentioned she previously had in their senior year of high school. However, she did not know what to do after testing positive at LC. Isolation in particular was a challenge. As previously mentioned, LC does not have private isolation rooms for students due to dorm renovations, so Morrissey was confused about the nature of the COVID policy.
“My friend got COVID first semester, and I knew she isolated in her room, but I wasn’t really sure if there was a room for me to stay (in),” Morrissey said.
Eventually, she isolated in her room after Morrissey and her roommates agreed to wear masks.
“I’m not going to drop a bunch of money on a hotel, or an Airbnb – I’m a college student, I don’t have that money.” Morrissey said.
On LC’s COVID response website, this is one of the suggestions they make if a person does not feel safe isolating in their room or staying with a sick roommate.
Morrissey said that the COVID-19 response webpage was helpful with reporting her positive test and getting the help that she needed. She would have liked to know that information before they got COVID.