The Collegian
Monday, February 26, 2024

UR loosens COVID-19 protocols and sells formerly free testing kits and masks amidst rising cases on campus

<p>Graphic by Katherine Gillenwater</p>

Graphic by Katherine Gillenwater

This is the first semester the University of Richmond removed contact tracing and mandatory reports of positive COVID-19 cases.

UR announced they were loosening COVID-19 protocols May 8. Isolation protocols were relaxed as UR removed six modular home units used for COVID-19 isolation in July. UR is maintaining limited isolation space for serious cases of COVID-19 or other illnesses that require isolation, according to its website.



COVID Pods Sept. 2023
The last remaining COVID-19 isolation pods on campus in the W93 Parking lot. Photo by Jasmine Lin.


Free self-test kits are no longer supplied by UR. Students can either get tested at the Student Health Center or purchase COVID-19 self test kits at the SpiderShop or Everything Convenience, according to the website

As of Tuesday, the SpiderShop and ETC have COVID-19 self test kits in stock, which students can purchase for $24.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration awarded $600 million to domestic COVID-19 test manufacturers to provide free COVID-19 rapid tests to households across the country, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Starting Sept. 25, U.S. households can order up to four free tests, the website read.

Louise Lockett Gordon, Virginia Department of Health epidemiologist supervisor for the Richmond and Henrico Health districts, said that COVID-19 cases have been rising across Virginia since July.

Hospital admission rates in Richmond and Henrico County have continued to be in the low classification, Lockett Gordon said. As of the first week of September, Virginia COVID-19 admission rates were at 4.08 admissions per 100,000 people. 


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COVID-19 graph

Photo courtesy of Virginia Department of Health. Percentage of emergency department visits for those diagnosed with COVID-19 across Virginia.


In the past, smaller increases in COVID-19 cases happened during the summer as a precursor for a larger increase in the winter months, Lockett Gordon said. Right now, the increase in COVID-19 cases is not significantly different from increases in previous summers, she said. 

The CDC recommends that everyone aged 5 years and older should receive one dose of the updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine, according to its website

If students test positive for COVID-19, they are expected to reach agreements with their roommates regarding isolating in their rooms, according to UR’s website

Abigail Dalton, a senior from Bristol, Virginia, tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 6. Dalton believes that she transmitted COVID-19 to her roommate, who also tested positive, she said. 

Dalton believes that she contracted the virus the weekend prior, when she attended social events. She decided to test when she developed symptoms a few days later, she said.

Despite the SpiderShop and ETC having test kits, Dalton purchased her self-test kit off campus, she said. 

“It’s an inconvenience,” Dalton said about the cost of tests. “If you work only six hours a week like I do, like, that’s like literally a fifth or a sixth of your paycheck.”

When deciding on her approach to quarantine, Dalton said she had to balance out the risk of getting her parents sick if she opted to go home or getting her roommates sick if she decided to stay on campus. Ultimately, Dalton stayed on campus.

Without meal delivery for students who were positive for COVID-19, obtaining food was a strange situation, Dalton said. Dalton had to decide whether to order food on campus with her dining dollars and have a friend pick it up or eat off campus, she said. 

A few days into her isolation, Dalton decided to go to the dining hall and pick up food with a mask on. Dalton said she felt bad for dining hall employees who were older or potentially immunocompromised that she might have exposed to COVID-19.

“I still felt so guilty going into the dining hall knowing that I was positive for COVID,” she said. 

According to UR’s website, students with COVID-19 are permitted to enter retail dining locations for grab-and-go meals as long as they wear a mask. 

Masks are no longer available at the Center for Student Involvement front desk, but are available on a limited basis at the University Facilities front desk during business hours, according to UR’s website. Dalton said that she had friends who asked the CSI desk if they were still supplying masks, and they were directed to purchase them from the SpiderShop.

According to a store associate, masks are currently available at the SpiderShop and are listed on its website for $7.99 each. 

Dalton returned to classes September 11, she said. With relaxed university guidance, students are no longer guaranteed the option for Zoom or hybrid classes. After emailing one of her professors, Dalton said she was instructed to get notes from another student in the class for the days that she missed.

Students are responsible to notify their professors and employees are expected to notify their supervisors if they are ill and unable to attend class or work, according to university guidance.

Mamnuya Rinki, a senior from Arlington, Virginia, tested positive for COVID-19 in spring 2023 and opted to isolate at home. 

“My experience is very different from what I’m seeing now,” Rinki said. 

After reporting the positive test, Rinki said UR quickly instructed her to make plans to go home or to isolate in a modular home unit on campus until testing negative. 

Rinki said that it seems like the new COVID-19 policies might make it easier for students to continue to live more normally once they test positive, as they do not have to be sent home or into isolation. 

“I had a hard time shifting back and forth in such a small amount of time,” Rinki said.

Latrina Lemon, a medical director in the health center, wrote in an email to The Collegian that the health center encourages students to monitor their health and stay home if they are ill and unable to attend class. They are continuing to monitor local and state trends, she wrote. 

Contact city and state writer Nick Mossman at nick.mossman@richmond.edu

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