College may be back to its in-person format, but COVID-19 still remains a cause for concern, and a few Highlanders will certainly be catching the disease this year — some already have. So, it is best that you are prepared to know what to do when you think that you might have COVID-19.
NJIT runs a pandemic recovery website that states the current COVID-19 policies that students must follow. However, this guidance has changed rapidly alongside the evolving recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We’ll use the experiences of infected students as well as the official information released by the CDC guide you through the process of getting COVID-19 as an NJIT student.
I think I have COVID-19. What should I do?
Your response depends significantly on the circumstances of this suspicion. If you are exhibiting any of the classic COVID-19 symptoms – fever, cough, fatigue, nausea, etc. — you should isolate yourself, notify Campus Health Services at email@example.com, and seek testing immediately. If you have merely been exposed to virus and are demonstrating no symptoms, however, then the best course of action per the CDC is to take precautions, such as wearing a mask, and to take a test at least five days after exposure or until you begin exhibiting symptoms, to get tested. This ensures accurate test results.
You have several options, the first being to take a PCR test at a testing facility. In previous semesters, most students would go to the Mobile Medical Care Unit near Greek Village. However, now that it is not taking appointments, a near-campus option would be the Minute Clinic by Whole Foods.
Another good option is to buy an at-home COVID-19 rapid test. You can buy these at most pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens. These don’t require an appointment, can be taken from the comfort of home, and deliver results in 15 minutes. However, they are more prone to false negatives; this may be a concern if you are symptomatic. As the CDC states that “negative results do not rule out SARS-CoV-2 infection and should not be used as the sole basis for treatment or patient management decisions,” you may need confirmation from other sources, especially if you are exhibiting symptoms.
My test came back positive. What now?
Firstly, you should inform people whom you have been in close contact with — for example, roommates or anyone you have attended gatherings with during the onset of symptoms. These people should likewise get tested after the five-day period.
At this point, you can follow what NJIT recommends on its Pandemic Recovery website by contacting the email address firstname.lastname@example.org and informing Campus Health Services of your positive test results. They will then direct you further on what you need to do; further steps may involve self-isolation in your room, in another residence hall, or at home. The experience of Eugene Osetskyy, a fourth-year mechanical engineering major who tested positive for COVID-19 this September and shared his correspondence with the school, will illustrate the process you might expect.
Osetskyy suspected he had the virus on Sept. 13 because of symptoms and took an at-home test that came out positive. He was first directed to “isolate until the end of the day” on Sept. 18, five days from when he first reported his positive result. He was instructed to “end isolation on Sept. 19 as long as you are fever free, without taking any fever-reducing medication, for at least 24 hours prior to returning and other symptoms are improved.”
He was additionally informed he should “wear a well-fitting mask in all public and private areas when others are present until Sept. 23, notify anyone you have been in contact with from Sept. 11,” and “complete [a] form and return it to email@example.com”; the Dean’s Office will officially notify your instructors of an excused absence. The aforementioned form is a standard excused absence form which includes your classes, time of absence, and the reason for your absence.
As Osetskyy’s permanent residence was within 50 miles of NJIT, he isolated there for the duration of the five days. However, students who live farther from campus and opt to stay at NJIT will need to follow different protocols. The COVID-19 Response and Support FAQs on the NJIT website state that “all residents testing positive for COVID-19 will be assigned to an isolation space in one of the residence halls. Students in single rooms may isolate in their current space. Residents with a roommate will move to an isolation space on campus.”
How will I keep up with my classes if I can’t attend school for a week?
Osetskyy did not struggle much with keeping up with work during his extended absence.
He added, “While reaching out to the Dean of Students, I also reached out to my professors individually. I was informed on how I could catch up with my work. And luckily for me, it was only the second week, so there was not a lot to catch up on. Most of the work that I did have to do was able to be submitted online.”
If you reach out to your professors to get the resources that you need — such as lecture slides, chapters being covered, and homework problems — hopefully you will not struggle with classwork, even as the semester progresses. However, if you are worried about the amount of material you are missing, reach out to classmates for information to help your learning. If illness gets in the way of your studies, asking professors for extensions may be beneficial as well.
With missing a week of classes, isolating from all your friends, and being ill, a case of COVID-19 can put a serious damper on the college experience. Nevertheless, the process is far from insurmountable and knowing what to expect can help you navigate it. Stay healthy, Highlanders!
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