Written by Ella Duryea
As of Sept. 28, Harding University has had a total of 158 student positive COVID-19 cases and 184 close contacts of COVID-19 cases. The current definition Harding provides of a close contact is: “Someone who has been within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more, with or without a cloth face mask, over a 24-hour period starting from two days before illness onset until the time the person who has tested positive is isolated.”
Students who are close contacts are contacted by a dean from Student Life. Protocol for a student’s quarantine will vary depending on their eligibility for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requirements of exposure, the presence/lack of symptoms and vaccination status of the close contact.
The length of quarantine will also vary from case to case. Unvaccinated close contacts are to be quarantined for 14 days. If no symptoms have been shown on the fifth, sixth or seventh day, students may request a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. The test is sent to Unity Health, with results available in 24 hours. If the test comes back negative, the quarantine is reduced to seven days.
For vaccinated students, there is no mandatory quarantine. Student Health Services (SHS) highly encourages vaccinated students who have been exposed to wear a mask for at least seven days after the exposure and monitor symptoms for 14 days. If students begin to show symptoms, they should contact SHS.
SHS has looked to CDC guidelines when creating their quarantine guidelines for Harding: They cite studies that show that a high percentage of positive cases show symptoms within 7 days of exposure.
Some close contacts can remain in their room, while others (and those who are in isolation) may be relocated to the Heritage Inn or empty dorm rooms designated for quarantine. Meals are delivered regularly to close contacts and those in isolation.
If you haven’t been exposed to COVID-19 but are still presenting symptoms, there is a COVID-19 screening form on the SHS website.
“Don’t hesitate to fill out the screening form to get in contact with a nurse and discuss your situation … even if you don’t have COVID, we can discuss your symptoms and often get you a same day appointment with a Searcy doctor,” Emille Jeffrey, a nurse for SHS, said.
The department urges students to reach out so SHS can fulfill their goal of keeping the Harding student body healthy.