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Senate meets with UHS to discuss COVID-19 testing, booster shots

| Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Notre Dame student senate gathered Wednesday evening on the second floor of LaFortune to discuss the addition of a new senate member, “Smick Day” and the climate surrounding COVID-19 protocols and concerns.

Heaven Carter | The Observer

Student body vice president Matthew Bisner kicked off the meeting by welcoming their newest member, Bella Mittleman, from Fischer graduate hall. 

The discussion then pivoted to “Smick Day,” which took place Thursday at 5 p.m. in Saint Mary’s. The event will have field games in order to build community between the two campuses, as well as a service to honor those who Saint Mary’s has lost to suicide. Notre Dame student government will be holding a walkover from the Notre Dame campus to the Saint Mary’s campus.

Regarding COVID-related issues, the student senate received a presentation from assistant vice president for student services Christine Caron Gebhardt and University Health Services director Ed Junkins. During the presentation, Junkins informed the student senate of how UHS is handling COVID concerns.

“The Notre Dame campus is different from others because it is uniformly highly vaccinated compared to other schools,” Junkins said. “[It’s] one of the safest geographic areas concerning the vaccine, which makes us very different from other counties.”

He added that less than 1% of students are testing positive for COVID, so they have more margin for error.

A student senator brought up a question regarding exit protocols. Gebhardt and Junkins responded, clarifying there will be no COVID exit protocols because of the number of vaccinated students. They also reiterated that the small majority of students who are unvaccinated are routinely tested, and said there are almost zero to a few who have tested positive.

Other student senate members expressed their concerns about access to COVID testing for students who are ill.

Gebhardt said “students have a fast pass, which means if we are not feeling well you can call UHS and get a rapid test.” She also stated that if UHS is unable to get back to a student the same day, the student will be able to get tested the next day. 

Gebhardt and Junkins said UHS is receiving over 180 calls a day, and that their services are not well-equipped for this demand. However, they said they have hired more employees to answer the phone and communicate with students. They are working towards resolving this issue, they said, and if students have any more questions or concerns they can express feedback on the UHS website.

Questions regarding booster shots were also brought up for discussion.

“There is a line for people who need the booster, those in high-risk populations,” Junkins said. “The majority of the people on campus are very low-risk, they are considering what a booster shot means and what it looks like. It is something we walk towards, not run towards. It is better to vaccinate more as a whole than to boost those who are already vaccinated.”

For now, there are no plans to mandate a booster shot, they said. 

Concerns regarding excused absences were also discussed during the meeting. Gebhardt said that professors must accept excused absences. She added that, if a student is unable to get tested before class, they can show their professor the secure message UHS sends regarding appointments. 

Gebhardt wrapped up the meeting by thanking everyone for their patience and for their understanding.

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