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Universities have made the switch to online classes to slow the spread of COVID-19. Picture Credit: Getty Images

Jaiden Gunn, Staff Writer

With COVID-19 cases still on the rise, many Universities have made the switch to online and virtual classes to help prevent the spread of the virus, as well as adding many other safety procedures so students could still return to school and campus. But do the students attending these Universities feel that these procedures are helping slow the spread of COVID-19? 

Universities needed to take major precautions because of the large student population. Utah’s number of cases are also on the rise and in order to open schools, procedures and mandates had to be put in place. Universities all over Utah have implemented procedures, but what are they and are they enough? Students at the University of Utah, Brigham Young University, Utah State University, Utah Valley University, and Dixie State University have shared their own experiences. 

University of Utah 

On the University of Utah’s website, their protocol is as follows: If a student tests positive, HRE (House and Residential Education) will be contacted and start contact tracing so that others will begin quarantining. Students who test positive will be asked to isolate in their dorm and do online classes for two weeks. The university also does random testing to catch asymptomatic cases. The University of Utah has to be extra careful with handling the spread of the virus because many severe COVID-19 cases are housed at the University’s hospital. 

Jamie Neiswender, a freshman at the University of Utah, has shared her perspective as a student. She started off by saying that the university had been handling the spread pretty well and took lots extra precautions. 

“Just a few of the extra precautions they’ve taken is creating online only or hybrid options for every class. In person classes are smaller with plenty of social distancing put into place and requirements of masks,” Neiswender said. 

In recent news, Governor Herbert has asked that universities make it mandatory to test students once a week, and the U has started offering those tests. 

“I think it would have been more beneficial for preventing spread if they had been doing that starting earlier in the semester,” Neiswender said. 

On a more personal note, Neiswender said that she almost wishes she took a year off because of COVID-19. “I am enrolled in a global business program that is supposed to involve travelling which we haven’t been able to do yet… All of this has made for a very interesting start of college.” 

Freshman to seniors alike can share that this year feels very different and is not what they were hoping or expecting. 

Brigham Young University

According to BYU’s website, BYU students and faculty are required to use the Healthy Together App or complete a daily checkup form to track symptoms. The app is also used to contract trace and to schedule a COVID-19 test.  

BYU requires testing for individuals that fit into these four categories: 

1) Symptomatic individuals 

2) Those who have been exposed by someone with a known COVID-19 case

3) Focused, risk-based evaluation and testing

4) Randomized testing across the campus 

Individuals who are waiting for their test results should self-isolate. Quarantine is for those who have been in close contact (six feet distance and 15 minutes minimum) with a confirmed COVID-19 case. Quarantine lasts for two weeks and students are also asked to monitor their symptoms. Isolation is required for those who have a confirmed COVID-19 case. There is a statewide mask mandate and physical distancing is recommended. But do student’s believe it is enough? 

Megan Bentley, a freshman at Brigham Young University, believes the school is doing alright, but that they could be doing better. 

“My housing doesn’t have a kitchen so to eat I have only a few options to go to and those places often don’t enforce social distancing… You can still catch covid while you are eating.”

With the large student population at BYU, Bentley has said that she has been tested twice. “…The first time I tested and quarantined until both me and the person I was in close contact with tested negative. The second time I was tested when I found out my friend was positive. I had to quarantine for two weeks even though I tested negative.” 

On the other hand, Josh Nicholls, also a freshman attending BYU, believes that the school is not handling the spread of COVID-19 very well. He and Bentley shared similar concerns for BYU’s regulations regarding the food court. 

“I think they could do a better job of enforcing mask wearing and social distancing. One specific example is in the food court where no social distancing is required and students are allowed to eat right next to each other.”

Another concern he had was the enforcement of quarantine and isolation. “I think they could do better at enforcing quarantine and isolation guidelines.” Nicholls shared his own experience with this, and explained that he had to quarantine after being exposed, but tested negative. 

“I was sent an email with instructions for my quarantine,” Nicholls explained, “but there was no form of enforcement. I was allowed to go outside, but was not supposed to go into any buildings except for my dorm.” 

Since then, Fox13 has reported that BYU has started to close off areas where students will not wear masks, like the Harold B. Lee Library. BYU hopes that these consequences will show students that they need to follow guidelines. 

Utah State University

The USU website has stated that from the week of Thanksgiving on, classes will be taught virtually. Students will not be forced to leave their dorms, which is a precaution to slow the spread of the virus. Currently, students are going to classes 1–2 days a week and then online and virtual classes. The expectations for students are as follows: stay home when sick, wear a mask, social distance, and practice good hygiene. Along with other schools, if you are exposed to the virus, you must quarantine. If you test positive, fill out a form and you will be taken care of. 

Ady Nygard, a student at USU, shared her experience and how she believes USU is helping slow the spread of COVID-19. 

“Not only were masks mandated at the beginning of the school year when the case count was low, but social distancing was very encouraged and enforced,” Nygard said. 

And now due to recent changes, “Utah State has mandated that every student is now required to get tested every single week with the goal to catch asymptomatic cases,” Nygard says. 

Along with many other freshmen, this year has been very different from the ideal college experience they were hoping for. 

Nygard shared, “I try and stay positive, but it can be hard to meet new people and interact with my classmates. We are doing the best we can, but I do miss in-person interaction.” 

Utah Valley University

Like many other universities, Utah Valley has also implemented similar protocols for keeping students safe. According to their website, all buildings require mask wearing and have been rearranged so social distancing is possible for in-person classes. If students test positive for COVID-19, they fill out a form that informs the school and then they quarantine for 14 days.

Sarah Smith, a student at UVU, shared that she thought at first that the university wasn’t doing too well at containing the spread, but they are getting better. 

“Because of the new mandate they have to do COVID testing for people who have on campus classes,” Smith said. 

Like many other college students, Smith shared that she also had to quarantine. 

“We just had to stay away from people for 10 days and then if we hadn’t tested positive at 10 days, we could leave.” 

Dixie State University

Dixie State has made most of their classes online this year, with few alternating in-person classes, but have now moved solely online. According to their website, they are supplying the staff and students with weekly tests because of the upcoming holidays. On-campus housing and food are still available and masks and social distancing are strongly recommended. They are also doing self reporting forms for anyone who has tested positive, has symptoms, or has come into close contact with someone who has a positive COVID-19 test. 

Mabel Bailey, a student at Dixie State, has said that the switch to completely online has been hard. 

“It’s difficult because classes are online, so I feel like I’m teaching myself every subject.”  

Many students throughout the nation weren’t expecting to have online classes this year and that has thrown off many plans, whether for the start of college or graduation.