Editor's note: This story has been updated to include clarifying information from public health program director and Contact Tracing Team member Kendall Leser.
On-campus Miami University students that test positive for COVID-19 are reporting waiting up to 48 hours to move into isolation, unclear communication from the university and fees to be transported back to their dorms.
Sofia Bolda, a first-year music education major, said the university gave her no instruction on how to proceed after receiving a positive test.
“I started showing symptoms on Sept. 8, and with so many students getting sick, I decided to ask my RA for an at-home test,” Bolda said. “That test came back positive.”
According to the university’s COVID-19 campus updates page, all on-campus students can pick up at-home tests from their resident assistant. The site notes that at-home tests are more useful when used consistently, as opposed to a one-time test.
Bolda’s positive result came within 15 minutes, But the university wouldn’t contact her for another 24 hours.
“My roommate and I were both really overwhelmed on what to do,” Bolda said. “I was already very upset about my test results, and I just had no idea what I was supposed to do or who I could call.”
The first notice Bolda received from the university was a notice to move to Wells Hall for the next 10 days to begin her isolation period.
“I’m in a dorm room all by myself, and I’m the only person on the third floor,” Bolda said. “That’s really weird. It feels like I’m in ‘The Shining’ or something.”
In an email to The Miami Student, public health program director Kendall Leser wrote increased wait times surrounding the move to isolation dorms is a result of the university no longer working with the Butler County Health Department.
“The university is not currently acting on behalf of the health department, as it was last year,” Leser wrote. “Last year, we were able to obtain names directly from the health department and act on those names quickly.”
Leser said the university must now receive both a positive self-report and a signed release of information form from the Student Health Center to place an on-campus student in isolation. Additionally, not all students with a positive test answer calls from the Student Health Center.
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Leser stressed the importance of on-campus students uploading their positive test results to MedProctor in order for her team to start the contact tracing process. Without their uploaded results, the contact tracing team is unable to initiate isolation housing placements.
Last year, Leser said Miami had an agreement with the Butler County Health Department that allowed them access to all positive test results that were reported, allowing her team to call those cases and conduct contact tracing. But now, Binax Now at-home tests do not provide the Contact Tracing Team with verified results. This requires the need for uploading positive results to MedProctor.
“I can confidently say that we call all the names we receive,” Leser wrote. “If students do not pick up their phones or call us back, they’re not going to get a placement until we call at least three times. If a student calls outside of our business hours, they will hear from us the next day.”
Currently, the Contract Tracing Team operates Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Savannah Fiediga, a sophomore sociology major, also waited 24 hours between receiving a positive COVID test and her isolation assignment. After her 10 days in isolation at Wells Hall, she received no word from the university on when she would be allowed to leave.
“The only person who gave me a date on when I could leave was the nurse they brought in to check on everyone daily,” Fiediga said, “so I had to call her on my last day and make sure I was okay to leave. There wasn’t any contact with the Student Health Center.”
When Fiediga called the transportation services number given to her by the university, she was told to pay a fee if she wanted transportation back to her dorm, an update from the free service provided to students last year.
“Overall, I’d just say the experience felt very unorganized,” Fiediga said. “Last year it seemed like the university knew what they were doing. Now, it just seems like they don’t care anymore.”
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the hours of the Contact Tracing Team. A previous version of this article stated the hours of the Student Health Center.