When a pandemic transitions to endemic

Over time COVID protocols have changed with student perspectives


Claire Sammons

The health center at Trinity University housing the COVID-19 unit.

As COVID-19 slowly evolves into an endemic virus, the current San Antonio risk level is high, according to the San Antonio Government COVID-19 webpage. Of the 407 new cases identified in Bexar County from Sept. 5 to Sept. 12., 17 of those were located at Trinity. Over the past two and a half years, as infection rates have fluctuated and knowledge has been gathered, the scope of COVID protocols has also changed. Although the university is not enforcing a mask mandate or testing requirements, there are still procedures in place which are being used to protect students.

Marcy Youngdahl, director of integrated counseling & health services, discussed some of the key points that she wants students, staff and faculty to be aware of. She highlighted that Trinity’s health protocols are derived from the CDC COVID guidelines. This includes the isolation period of five days, with the date of a positive test result or the presence of symptoms being day zero of isolation. Students have the option of isolating themselves on campus in a specific isolation room or returning home.

Should a person on campus be exposed to COVID, Youngdahl recommends three courses of action. First, the exposed party should monitor themself for COVID symptoms and notify the COVID Health Team. Second, it is recommended that the exposed person wear a mask indoors for 10 days. Third, one should get tested five full days after their last contact with an infected person. Students have the option of requesting a rapid at-home COVID test from Health Services by contacting them at [email protected] or 210-999-8235. These steps are outlined in more detail on Trinity’s COVID website under the “Exposed to COVID?” tab.

John Taylor, fifth-year physics and philosophy double-major, has attended Trinity since before the pandemic. He chooses to double-mask at every possible opportunity, citing public health as well as his individual health as an immunosuppressed individual. Taylor recognizes that Trinity University follows the CDC’s guidelines, though he doesn’t “exactly agree” with its recommendations, wishing that more safeguards were put in place in regards to COVID.

“I wish [Trinity] would still have [the] mask mandate in place due to the fact that the general issue of COVID is still very much fact, even if it is getting more normalized,” Taylor said.

Youngdahl acknowledges that every person has experienced COVID in different ways, which leads to a varying range of comfort levels. She advises that Trinity community members be empathetic to one another while maintaining individual responsibility to follow the recommendations outlined above.

“We have more tools to respond to COVID now: vaccines, booster vaccines, treatments, easy-to-access testing, easy-to-access masks. Due to these factors, the level of herd immunity and the diminished severity of the current circulating COVID variant, our public health officials have deemed that we can change some of our practices around risk-reduction,” Youngdahl wrote.

First-year volleyball players Jozie Dhayer and Jenna Rodriguez took a different perspective, saying they are grateful that they are able to play without such restrictive protocols. During their flights to a Georgia tournament, the volleyball team was advised to wear masks, but otherwise, COVID was treated as “normal” and “no big deal.”

“Compared to what our other teammates experienced in their freshman year, now it’s better, and I’m grateful that we have those resources and experiences,” Rodriguez said.

Overall, as Youngdahl emphasizes, every person on Trinity’s campus has a different perspective regarding COVID, the recommendations from the CDC and the Trinity health team. As the community transitions into the endemic phase for the foreseeable future, the university guidelines provide some baseline expectations.