Illinois State University Student Health Services has had to increase its workforce in response to the increased number of cases.
Since COVID-19 testing has become available in various locations on the ISU campus, the number of positive cases has risen.
While the positivity rate has gone down, the need for more contact tracers has continued to increase.
According to assistant professor at Mennonite College of Nursing Melissa Jarvill, about 80 students majoring in nursing are working as contact tracers in the Uptown Circle Contact Tracing Center as part of their clinical hours.
Along with the nursing students, there are about 10 students in Health Promotion and Education completing their professional practice hours as contact tracers.
“In addition, we have hired 33 student workers from students with majors in health professions like nursing, health promotions and education, psychology, health information management and communications sciences and disorders,” Jarvill said.
All student workers are supervised by Mennonite College of Nursing faculty, Health Promotion and Education faculty or part-time supervisors who have experience in nursing, public health and healthcare management.
While students have become a source of relief for the contact tracing concern, another issue has come to light as students have tested positive for COVID-19.
Students who have come back to ISU and tested positive are being given the option to return home for their 14-day quarantine.
“That was the advice in the beginning and with the advice from Dr. (Anthony) Fauci and other public health experts about not doing that,” ISU Director of Media Relations Eric Jome said.
“We did give students an option to go home, but we also provide quarantine spaces on campus.”
The university defaults back to following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines with a few changes to its method on how to manage the influx of infected students on and off campus.
“I think it would be smarter to keep people here so they don’t spread it to more people, however, I think that the idea of sending them home is so parents can rest easy,” freshman social work major Trevis Clementi said.
Other students are concerned about students who have moved back to the ISU campus, tested positive and are being sent back to their towns in areas like Chicago.
“I think it’s a problem to send them home to their family in Chicago because then they are spreading it to their family,” sophomore marketing major Asha Redd said.
The decisions by ISU to allow such freedom of movement may seem counterintuitive to some people.
Officials of the McLean County Health Department do take individuals’ needs into consideration when it comes to allowing the university to continue its practices of isolation choice.
“The best practice, when possible, would be for an individual to stay put and isolate where they are until they are no longer contagious and preventing further spread of the virus or possibly infecting family and friends,” McLean County Health Department Administrator Jessica McKnight said.
“Everyone’s situation is unique and what is the safest option for one person might not be the best plan for someone else.”