By James Barchetti
After many weeks in which a dashboard documenting COVID-19 cases at Point Park University was barren, administrators have confirmed their first COVID-19 case in a commuter student. There have been multiple students quarantined in Lawrence Hall due to contact with people who have the virus throughout the last few weeks.
The commuter was the only student who had apparently carried COVID-19 on the campus, which had quickly escalated as the cases increased throughout the days. Students have been growing frustrated about the lack of communication before the first COVID-19 cases were announced, whereas many as 17 cases have been confirmed to be in Point Park, 16 cases being students and one employee case.
“It doesn’t seem like people are being quarantined long enough and the fact that they only update the COVID dashboard on weekdays and only once a day is insane, that needs to change,” said Luke Mongelli, a frustrated student that took on-ground classes.
The dashboard, which holds all of the information on student and staff COVID-19 cases on campus, does not track those who study or work out of state. It does, in fact, track both student residential and commuters in the area, even if they do not use on-ground classes. The dashboard is on a constant twenty-four-hour update, which is approximately updated every morning.
The most important part of this dashboard, however, is the quarantine spaces that are tracked and in use during the semester. For over a month, the dashboard had no statistics about the impact of COVID-19 on Point Park University.
According to Alexis Bonifate, a sophomore Residential Staff member at the University stated that the quarantine spaces are stationed on the 19th and 20th floors of one of the student dorms known as Lawrence Hall. These floors are controlled by the Deans of Student Life.
Michael Giseke, a Dean of Student Life and the main operator on the COVID-19 Campus Dashboard shed light on how rooms are readied for students. The system of the rooms are based on time, and not the actual tests. The decision on how long, and which rooms they are in, is directly decided by Student Life. Giseke noted that “We are managing the spread, not stopping the contraction.”
When a student informs Student Life about their symptoms, they will be put into an isolated room while they await their test. Students can isolate themselves within their rooms as long as they live in a single, and have a private bathroom of their own. Giseke explained that the student must stay in the quarantine space on the day they were tested positive, plus ten. They cannot take another test and must wait for the required days before going back to normal student living. Any student who has had direct contact with a COVID-19 positive student must also wait the full 14 days in isolation, even if they do not have symptoms. Students who test negative and begin to feel symptom-free can leave immediately.
According to Bonifate, Residential Staff mainly rely on the word of students and must advise them to go to the Student Health Center, where the University will provide free testing. Giseke explained that commuters are treated the same way as long as they’re in the Pittsburgh area, except they are told to isolate within their own homes. Required medical appointments, in collaboration with local facilities such as UPMC, will be arranged for both commuters and on-campus students before receiving their COVID-19 testing. There is no direct contact with any staff and student unless there is no other choice.
Though frustration on campus continues to grow, Luke Mongnelli thinks Point Park can do better with communicating these processes.
Mongelli, a recent on-ground Sophomore, felt Point Park has done an “okay job” with handling the situation. He believes the University could be doing a lot more for the students, such as giving more information on the pandemic. Giseke had expressed that he had taken this into consideration, and had recently updated the dashboard to see how many confirmed cases are currently using the isolation rooms. Most students haven’t been communicated the same, in Mongelli’s eyes, where those who don’t know to contact Student Life on the process of isolation are completely out of the loop. Mongnelli had to move from in-person to remote classes due to his concerns about feeling safe on campus.
To students, they believe that there is a lot of information about the process that is unknown, whereas University Dean Keith Paylo assures that they have done an outstanding job with communicating with students, staff, and faculty members alike. This is all provided via Town Hall Meetings, Zoom calls, and webinars. He insisted that students continue to take part in these events, and in the future, plans to offer more webinars and meetings in order for students and staff to ask questions about the 2020-21 school year.
While Point Park University believes that they’ve done more than enough, confusion will continue to spiral in the eyes of students who are unable to locate the allotted information.