While some students continue to mask and COVID-19 mandates are lifted, one student is concerned the university needs to do more to accommodate students who contract COVID-19.
Darcie Zudell, a freshman studying journalism, experienced this firsthand in September when she contracted COVID-19. She was able to quarantine in her room in True House because she lives in a single. However, she ran into some issues regarding the restroom.
Zudell's bathroom is shared between herself and five other people, she said. That caused some concern for one of her suitemates, as she was worried about the contagion levels through the shared space.
"I was kind of panicked with what to do with that, but I really couldn't do anything besides just assure that I will be wiping everything down," Zudell said.
Zudell said she believes her concerned suitemate stayed with a friend through the majority of Zudell's isolation.
"Which is sad that she had to make those arrangements when I was the one who was sick," Zudell said.
Zudell said she was not provided meal deliveries through the university. She said she also experienced delays receiving medication from her pharmacy.
In previous years, OU provided students with on-campus COVID-19 isolation housing, isolation period requirements, testing and meal options. It also had a mask requirement in place during a portion of the 2021-22 academic year.
This year, however, there is no mask requirement in place and the university is offering limited isolation housing to students who test positive for COVID-19.
Jneanne Hacker, executive director of housing and residence life, said the housing contract outlines that students are expected to find their own opportunities to isolate off campus. In extenuating circumstances, there is very limited on-campus isolation housing offered to students.
"This shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone," Gillian Ice, special assistant to the president for public health operations, said. "Students and parents were notified during bobcat student orientation, before the orientation, during the orientation, after the orientation and in the housing contract."
The university also asks students to test at home if they are not feeling well and report positive cases through an incident report.
Zudell was concerned about students not receiving direct support through the university. After she completed the COVID-19 incident report, she only received automated messages, she said.
"I don't think the university is doing a great job at reporting it and keeping track of it because as far as the university was concerned, I was just like staying in my room willingly even though I reported that I had COVID," Zudell said.
Ice's COVID-19 management team was reduced from about 50 people to herself, one part-time employee and a couple of interns, she said.
"We're in a really different place than we were the last two years or the last two years. … Now, we're in this odd place where we still have a pandemic, but much of the world has moved on," Ice said.
Although the university's COVID-19 management team is not as large, Ice is still working with the Athens City-County Health Department to track reported cases.
"We're trying to inform the community about levels of risk, but we're expecting people to take some ownership about managing that risk and managing the experience," Ice said.