The Highs and Lows of a Semester During COVID-19

            Students at the University of Notre Dame have just completed a historic semester. While everything that happens these days seems historic and momentous (usually because it is), Notre Dame is still worth talking about. We served as one of the very first colleges to operate during a pandemic that is not near to being done, and we did so in a public way, meaning the rest of the country had access to our infection statistics and progress. Whether it was done successfully or not will be discussed in this post.

            Dedicated readers may notice that this is my third post on the subject; that is because it an experience that all Notre Dame students lived through together, and I believe the experiment needs to be recounted. A good scientific experiment includes excessive and complete documentation, in order for future researchers to be able to learn from both the good and the bad of the experiment. In this case, there certainly is both good and bad to be gleaned.

            As of December 12th, Notre Dame has had 1,846 COVID-19 cases. Of that number, 156 cases were in graduate students, 252 were Notre Dame employees, and a stunning 1,436 cases occurred among undergraduate students. That amounts an average of 360 cases per undergraduate year (freshman, sophomore, etc.). A few of those cases were from the (wisely) required entrance testing prior to the beginning of the semester. However, a majority of those cases were from the outbreak that occurred about three weeks into school starting. At that point, we had to shut down for two weeks, cancel a football game, and take extreme precautions. At least 20 of my friends were put into isolation units. When the school ran out of isolation units, COVID-positive off-campus seniors were forced to isolate in their apartments with their healthy roommates. This happened to me, and it was quite a low point in my trust in Notre Dame. I did not blame my infected roommate, as she had been as careful as possible, but it was quite frustrating that my fellow healthy roommate and I were put at risk because Notre Dame had miscalculated the seriousness and contagiousness of the virus.

            After our lockdown period, things got a lot better. Some students who had been throwing parties were expelled for the semester or for good; that was a wake-up call for seniors who had been denying reality. However, I will maintain that Notre Dame was woefully unprepared at the most important moment. After our lockdown, they became much more efficient and diligent with testing. Their policies strengthened, and they were able to adequately take care of those students in isolation. At the end of the day, Notre Dame is lucky that none of our students became deathly ill from the virus. There is a high chance that a death would have been their fault, as everything was so poorly mismanaged during our late August outbreak.

            As I mentioned, students began taking everything more seriously after our lockdown. Leading up to the highly-anticipated Clemson game, everyone I know was looking after their health; people self-isolated and even took care of their health in other ways, through healthy food and supplements such as Xymogen. It certainly paid off in the end—besides not getting COVID, we were all able to watch one of the most historic games in Notre Dame’s history. In addition, although we received a lot of bad press for storming the field, our infection numbers did not go up in the weeks following the game! Every student was PCR tested before we went home for Thanksgiving, in a necessary effort to avoid bringing the virus back to our families and hometowns. By the end of the semester, I was proud of how Notre Dame (both students and administration) had learned to handle virus safety. However, there is always room for improvement next semester.

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