By Jenna Bloom
For The Diamondback
As COVID-19 cases have declined over the past month at the University of Maryland, some students are unhappy with the university’s contact tracing policies in the dorms.
The HEAL Line is the method the university uses to contact trace members of the university community. The line is intended for individuals to report a positive COVID-19 test, potential symptoms or any exposure to someone with COVID-19. After calling, the university’s early contact identification team, staffed by University Health Center officials, notifies any of the individual’s close contacts and determines which of them meet quarantine criteria.
In a campuswide email last week, health center director Spyridon Marinopoulos updated the campus on COVID-19 protocols.
Changes included suspending the use of QR codes in classrooms and the sending of general notification letters when an individual tests positive in classrooms or other settings. Notifications will continue to be sent when clusters or outbreaks are identified, and letters will be sent to individuals who are confirmed close contacts of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, according to the email.
The changes came as the campus reached a 98 percent vaccination rate, according to the email. The email emphasized the importance of the campus’ indoor mask mandate and said the university had found a lack of evidence for the viral spread of COVID-19 in classrooms.
Maegan Blake, a resident of Cumberland Hall whose roommate tested positive for COVID-19, expressed her concern with the university’s handling of contact tracing.
Blake, a freshman enrolled in letters and sciences, received an email after her roommate tested positive saying she had no close contact with a positive individual on her floor, despite living with her.
“I honestly thought it was a little irresponsible,” Blake said. “I wish that they would have had the precautions ready to go as to what the person who tested positive should do and then what the roommate should do as well, because we both were kind of in the unknown, neither of us knew what to do in that situation.”
Finn Hartman, a resident of Pyon-Chen Hall who tested positive for COVID-19 in September, said the entire contact tracing process was frustrating. She especially took issue with the inconsistency of the university’s methods of reaching students.
After a student tests positive, they are instructed to share the names and phone numbers of individuals they may have come into close contact with, Hartman said. After that, the university reaches out to these individuals by phone and informs them to get tested as soon as possible.
“[The message came in] a day or two for most people,” the freshman public policy major said. “There was one girl who got reached out to … two weeks after we actually reported the contacts.”
In response to student concerns about contact tracing policies, a university spokesperson shared the HEAL FAQ page.
Scott Cronin, Residence Hall Association president, said he doesn’t have much personal experience in dealing with contact tracing concerns.
“We keep in close contact with the health center and the county and follow [their guidance] as closely as possible,” the sophomore government and politics major said.
He added that the RHA works to enforce mask wearing in dorms anywhere other than a student’s own room.
“We always want to continue to encourage students to be thoughtful of their own health and thoughtful of the health of others whose lives they may affect,” Cronin said.
CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of the story misstated the Residence Hall Association as the Resident Hall Association. This story has been updated.