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The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

My Journey into the Nightmarish World of Clark’s Nearly Non-Existent COVID Policy

Well, it finally got me. After three years of being a “Novid,” I tested positive on September 18, 2023. What follows is my day-to-day experience of getting COVID while at Clark—the adequate, the blatantly negligent, and what I think can be improved in our school’s response.

Day 0 (Sept 18)

Today I woke up feeling pretty poorly, but since I had gotten sick the week prior and tested negative I figured that it was more of the same. Around 3pm I entered my three hour class, where I began feeling worse and worse. Pretty quickly I knew I could not last through the whole lesson and left. I immediately went to take the test, and there I saw the mythical two lines:

Allison’s positive COVID test.

Since I’m from Connecticut and don’t have my car with me, it looks like I’ll be staying here for my isolation period. It is at this point I realize that I have no clue what to do. So I googled “Clark COVID policy” and the top result is the announcement from Spring 2023 when they stopped requiring vaccines. But the CDC says to isolate at least five full days, so I’ll go along with that.

But then I realize I have a much bigger issue: what am I going to eat? This was around 5 PM, and of course I can’t go to the dining hall. Luckily, my roommate was already going to the grocery store at 6 so they were able to get me a sandwich. I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow, but I guess I’ll figure it out.

Day 1

I figure that Clark will want to know I am sick, so I called Health Services and asked what to do. I was advised to “follow CDC guidelines,” which I now knew already. I didn’t have to report my illness to anyone, though of course I sent emails to every professor and individual I had contact with for the past few days. Next, I needed to sort out this food problem, so I called Residential Life and asked what my options were: Could my suitemates swap out my meals or was it more of a delivery-based system? They weren’t sure. They advised me to email Clark Dining, which I did and made sure to include the Dining Staff and Dean of Students on the email. Nobody responded.

Luckily my food problem for today was taken care of since I had a tuna pack and ramen cup to eat. I’m out of luck if no one can help me tomorrow, though. I’m not sure what I will do then.

Day 2

I call Residential Life again, hoping I can get an answer, and they give me one: I simply have to call the Dining Hall with my order and go over there to pick it up. Easy, right? But the number they gave me was out of service, so I had to look on the Dining website and find the correct one. Still, this problem is solved, and I have a way to access meals.

Day 3

I now call the Dining Staff at the beginning of each day with both my lunch and dinner orders and set the times to pick them up. I forgot to update my email to the Dean to say that I am now set, so I got a response: an employee for the Dean’s office admits that they do not know the answer, so they request a response from multiple other people (including the Dean of Students). Neither of them responded, but the employee tells me “I’m glad you were able to figure out the process”.

Day 4

This morning I woke up to a bit of an emergency, since I had this nonstop cough and my throat just felt awful. Luckily a Mucinex took care of it and I could sleep in some more. However, I’m pretty embarrassed that the person on the other end of the line has to hear me hacking and wheezing as I ask for onion soup. I’m sincerely thankful and appreciative of the Clark Dining Staff, who took the time to help me every day until I felt better. My last day went uneventfully, and I returned (with a mask) back to campus life.

Final Thoughts

A few weeks later, while doing laundry in my dorm building, I passed by this poster:

Two informational posters found in a dorm, seemingly forgotten about and outdated.

To my knowledge this is the only “COVID prevention” material I have seen on campus so far. Note that there is no mention of what to do if you get sick.

What can Clark do? For starters, creating a “What to Do if You Have COVID On Campus” webpage would help. This virus is here to stay, and for the foreseeable future we are going to need an accessible source of information for when students get sick. I know it’s pretty easy to look up COVID guidelines online, but everything else, including food and dorm rules, are things that Clark does not have on any part of their site.

This absence of information is why I got annoyed when I saw the email complimenting how I “figured out the process”: I shouldn’t have to figure it out. I shouldn’t have to place 4 calls and 5 emails just to figure out where my next meal is going to come from. And what if I didn’t have access to my own food that first day? What if I couldn’t access the internet where nearly all COVID advisory rules are? What if I didn’t have a phone?

All this frustration to say, there is a way to quickly and easily alleviate this problem, and Clark hasn’t done it. Hopefully soon, probably after another influx of cases, they will make the necessary changes to help our school be a safer and healthier one.

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