The University of Maryland’s COVID-19 quarantine policy is under investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, according to a letter sent Friday from the committee to university President Darryll Pines.
This investigation stems from concerns that the off-campus quarantine requirement for students who test positive for COVID-19 places unnecessary financial, academic and mental stress on students, the letter said.
“Maryland seems to be reinstituting the same negative policies it implemented during the beginning of the pandemic at the expense of its students,” the letter said, highlighting concerns that the off-campus quarantine requirement could expose students’ “older, more-at-risk parents” to the virus.
“We are in receipt of the letter sent by the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic,” a spokesperson for this university said in an email to The Diamondback. “Throughout the pandemic, the University of Maryland has made decisions that prioritize the safety of our community and designed policies in full alignment with local and national public health guidance.”
Students at this university living in residence halls or university owned fraternity and sorority houses are required to isolate off-campus if they test positive, according to the university’s COVID-19 policy. This university previously provided on-campus isolation space to residential students, but as of September no longer offers this option.
In an interview with The Diamondback last month, Pines said students who live more than 300 miles from campus can isolate on campus or in a hotel, and the university provides some financial assistance for those who cannot afford to do so.
Some students at this university told The Diamondback last month the quarantine and isolation policies raised confusion.
The committee is also questioning how this university has spent the $115 million dollars of aid it received from the multiple COVID-19 relief bills passed by Congress, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act; Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021; and the American Rescue Plan.
This university is expected to provide the committee with a briefing describing how it spent the COVID-19 relief funds and plans on how policy will be administered and enforced, the letter said. The committee also directed the university to address the impacts of its COVID-19 policies on students' mental health, academic performance and finances, and how this university may assist in those concerns.
The number of positive COVID-19 cases on this university’s campus and in surrounding areas is likely underrepresented, according to experts. Neil Sehgal, an assistant health policy and management professor at this university, told The Diamondback last month that the prevalence of at-home tests that go unreported means case data is not always indicative of real-world conditions.
This story has been updated.