Omni-Chronic Headache

EN+graphic+by+Erika+Sauer.

EN graphic by Erika Sauer.

Sabrina Salovitz, Editor-in-Chief

With a new year comes new COVID concerns, and the question on everyone’s mind as the semester hits off: how is the university handling things?

Student Health Services is going to be offering symptomatic tests for COVID-19, flu and strep, and the university continues to offer free, saliva-based COVID-19 PCR tests Monday through Friday in the Cohen Student Union for asymptomatic students and employees, according to University Spokesperson Pamela McCabe.

“FGCU remains dedicated to providing students and employees with access to COVID-19 tests and, at this time, we have no plans to stop this service,” she said. “So far this semester, about 30 tests a day are being picked up, which is on trend for what we saw in the fall term.”

The university is still encouraging students and staff to complete their daily health checks on the Veoci app, a program that has been unpopular almost since it was first introduced.

“We continue to stress the importance of filling out the Veoci app health screener and using the COVID-19 Help Line (239-590-1206),” McCabe said. “The information collected helps us respond quickly to rising cases and contain it without causing a disruption to all campus operations.

Many students consider filling out the app to be a hassle and do not see the benefits of the school tracking their health. According to FGCU Senior Selena Young, there are even some students who take the test once, screenshot the green checkmark and show that around campus.

“I don’t get how some events require you to do it, while others don’t,” she said. “I feel like all events on campus are not doing the same thing with app, and if they’re not all requiring it, we just shouldn’t use it at all.”

FGCU also strongly encourages everyone who is medically able to get vaccinated, including a booster, against the COVID-19 virus, but booster shots are not being distributed on campus like they were when the university first opened back up. There are vaccine clinics that are available to students and employees, but many of these are hosted by outside organizations. On Jan. 21, Publix is hosting one such clinic, to be held on campus.

“Data shows that individuals who are up-to-date with their vaccinations against the COVID-19 virus are less likely to face serious illness, hospitalization or death,” McCabe said. “Boosters further improve your immunity, and FGCU urges students and employees to keep up-to-date on their vaccines so they can get the most out of the spring term.”

The university has ended the vaccine incentives program that gave $100 in Eagle Bucks to students who voluntarily provided proof of vaccination. Employees received $100 in the form of a check and students were also entered into weekly lotteries for the length of the program. FGCU made it clear throughout the campaign that it would be ending and it would not come back, but with the Omicron variant surging across the nation, there are many who want to see the program return.

“A lot of students are vaccinated but there’s still a big percentage of those who aren’t,” Junior Bella Lopez said. “And it’s putting everyone at risk.”

If you test positive for COVID-19, develop symptoms commonly associated with the coronavirus or learn you have been in close contact to someone who has COVID-19, you should fill out the Veoci app health screener or call the COVID-19 Help Line at 239-590-1206, according to McCabe.

“FGCU case investigators will review your unique case and provide guidance on the recommended next steps,” she said. “However, an individual can always reach out to their own medical provider for further guidance and determine the next best steps for their particular situation.”

There have been reports from students like Young that some professors are no longer accepting a positive COVID diagnosis as an excused absence. Students worry that a move like that would encourage infected students to show up to campus in order to avoid an unexcused absence.

“It is important to note that students who miss class due to isolation or quarantine will have access to a medical excuse through Student Health Services, just as they would for illnesses like flu or strep,” McCabe said. “To maintain course continuity and academic integrity, each course instructor has been asked to identify alternate methods of instruction they could use for five to 10 days should an in-person class experience a disruption due to COVID-19.”

The university has consulted with local and state health partners, including the Department of Health, and considered the recommendations put out by the CDC to guide their actions, according to McCabe. There are no plans currently to close campus, and the school will be following the same process they did in the fall term.

“Overall, I think they’re doing the best they can,” Lopez said. “Nothing’s going to be perfect. We’re dealing with really hard times and the school has been doing pretty well and they can only keep trying until things get worse or they get better.”