Missed symptom report emails alarm students

Lucy Brewster/ The Miscellany News.

This year, students have completely shifted their daily campus lives to create a safe environment and avoid the spread of COVID-19 on campus. One expectation in particular has caused some students stress on top of an already difficult year: the Daily Health Screening. 

In an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus, as well as to follow New York state guidelines, students this semester are required to fill out a daily symptom report in the CoVerified App, which also tracks student testing and vaccination. If a student forgets to fill out the daily symptom report they will receive an email notification from the Office of Residential Life stating that they’ve failed to complete the form, with a threat of future student conduct procedures. This response is harsher than last semester, when emails were sent without a specific student conduct warning. Each email contains the warning: “Please note that failure to fill out this report more than three times will result in a referral to the student conduct process; continuing to miss reports thereafter may result in a loss of privileges.” 

Some students have taken issue with the harsh wording of these notifications. Ella Johnson ’21  reached out to the Office of Residential Life in response to a series of these emails. In her email, Johnson emphasized the stress that students are already experiencing on campus, writing, “The stress of everyday life here is far too much, and now there is an additional threat of being punished for not doing a good enough job managing my time during this.”

“The email sent when you miss reporting symptoms is really harsh and scary as well as  unclear,” commented Carolyn Patterson ’22. “They say if you miss more than three there will be consequences, but I’ve heard of people missing three and nothing happens. It is also not stated  what exactly the consequences are for missing multiple,” she added. 

Jack Golick ’22 concurred. “The College should have provided more information about it. Everyone is going to forget to do it once in a while and the emails are alarming,” he said. The Dean of Student Living and Wellness, Luis Inoa explained the importance of these checks, stating “We just want to know if our students are well and if they aren’t well we want them to seek the support to understand what it is.”  “The CoVerified form is a change from last semester, when students filled out a Google Form each day called the “Daily Health Questionnaire.” Inoa explained the change: “CoVerified does hold a lot more. It lets us know the testing cadence for students, it lets us know whether they’ve filled out the questionnaire for the day. Right now it’s also going to be collecting information on our vaccinations so just having one system where particularly as an administrator I can take one look and have an update on a student for me has been helpful as opposed to the various spreadsheets I had to look at.” 

Inoa also emphasized the importance of the daily symptom reports in light of the higher number of COVID-19 cases on campus. “What we’re seeing this semester in terms of COVID feels a little different than it did last semester in that we have students, like last semester, who are testing positive,” he described. “What feels a little bit different is that we’re having more students with symptoms, for sure. And then we’re also seeing students in community together if one student has tested positive another student will test positive in that same pod, so we’re seeing more of that spread.” Therefore, as COVID-19 has become a more serious concern on campus, and cases in Dutchess County have risen, the symptom reports have become even more important, in the eyes of the College, in reducing the spread on campus.

Despite the importance of these reports, Inoa notes that a significant number of students fail to complete the form each day. “More students do it than not, but enough students don’t do it to create some administrative workload,” he noted. 

Inoa explained what the conduct process should look like if a student consistently fails to fill out the report. For more benign cases, he explains that “It could be as simple as a notice of regulation violation which is just like, ‘Hey, this is a warning you have to keep doing it, please make sure to do it.’” However, the consequences will be different if a student is completely unwilling to comply with the symptom reporting process. Inoa explained : “I could imagine … if a student was really wholly defiant about it… I can convene that group to say, ‘Hey this is important and continued behavior like this could mean that you just need to go home if it’s not something you can comply with.”

Some students have noticed inconsistencies between the email warnings and actual consequences for not submitting the symptom report. A student who chose to remain anonymous told The Miscellany News that they stopped filling out the symptom reports for multiple weeks, and were never referred to student conduct, as the email from Residential Life states would occur in this scenario.

Inoa believes that the current conduct process in place is effective for students who have not been consistently filling out the symptom reports. However, he did acknowledge that more messaging on why the form is important may be effective in increasing compliance. He notes, “Perhaps doing some proactive work on the messaging up front of why it’s important, so when you get the message [students] understand ‘Yeah this is serious and I need to make sure I get this done.’”

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