‘Berg institutes new orange masking level

Spring semester starts with a new masking level and changes to COVID-19 testing.

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Students spend time together outside in the wake of the new Omicron variant. Photo courtesy of the Muhlenberg Office of Communications.

Twenty twenty-two started off with multiple surprises for students as they returned to ‘Berg for their spring semester. With a recent surge in cases on campus, Muhlenberg College introduced a new orange masking level as well as changes to the original COVID-19 testing process. However, students have expressed mixed opinions on this new process, more specifically with the price that comes with getting an on-campus COVID test. 

“As someone who was recently a close contact for COVID-19, I thought a PCR test would’ve been readily available, but unfortunately, I was highly mistaken. I attempted to get tested at the Health Center twice that week, and both times, they did not test me,” shared Jack Riccobono ‘25. “The first time, they said I couldn’t get a test because I was asymptomatic, even though I was a verified close contact, and the second time they said I came too late even though it ended at 1… and I got there at 12:45.”

Ethan Yazdanyar ‘25 said, “I feel like the process should be simpler and it shouldn’t cost anything. The fact that it does, especially when the total number of cases are rising, seems counterproductive, unless the reason is that they don’t want us to get tested.”

This new orange level is the level that was determined best to be used to decrease risk of transmission of Omicron.

Brynnmarie Dorsey

Before students left for winter break, the yellow masking level was enforced across campus. This included wearing a mask in all indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status, with flexibility given in sports practices and rehearsals. With the new orange masking level, all of the yellow level components remain intact with the addition of required masking in residence halls, rehearsals, and a handful of sports practices.

“The College adopted an orange level in the masking policy to address the nuances that have occurred with the Omicron variant. With the more transmissible variant as the current predominant strain, the College recognized the need to adapt our current masking policy to address the current situation,” explained Brynnmarie Dorsey, Executive Director of Health and Counseling Services. “The red masking level, which requires masks at all times for all, was considered to be too restrictive for the current variant.  However, the yellow level was not enough as it allows some discretion with masking in classroom settings and no mask requirement in the residence hall.  This new orange level is the level that was determined best to be used to decrease risk of transmission of Omicron.”

The fact that I have to look elsewhere to be tested is frustrating.

Shachar Kessler ‘22

Changes have been made to the process of getting a COVID-19 test, with a new $25 fee and little to no options for a test to be covered by insurance. The accessibility for on-campus testing has stirred many thoughts in the student population with both residents and commuters. 

“As a commuter myself, I know that I can get free tests for myself from my primary health provider,” said Anam Ali ‘25. “But the fact that the testing is now $25, it’s not going to have an accurate portrayal of the total number of positive cases on campus because people will not want to pay that amount of money [for a test] that is usually free with insurance.”

Shachar Kessler ‘22 shared, “I think that the fact that it is $25 for a test is seriously a turn off for many people. There are many cheaper options for testing, including free testing. The fact that I have to look elsewhere to be tested is frustrating. I am lucky that I have a car on campus so I can drive and access these other forms of testing, but there are many students who can’t.”

‘Berg students living on campus also shared their thoughts on this campus resource and its new price tag.

“I think it’s kind of fair that the test is $25 because the original price was $50 but the school is paying a hair of the cost,” explained Adonis Brooks ‘23. “Also there are other ways to get a free test outside of the school.” This policy only applies to students who have health insurance, so for many, COVID tests still come at a cost.

Daeshaun Morrison ‘24 shared a different viewpoint, saying, “I think it is terrible that the school is requiring students $25 to take care of themselves and others. Students are responsible and want to stop the spread but it’s difficult with such a price for a test with an accuracy of 70%.” The best estimate of PCR accuracy is currently reported as being 77%, and fluctuates as the days post-infection increase. This number is ever-changing, much like all COVID policies and standards seem to be. 

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