Editorial: Current information keeps our staff and students safe

Increased communication is crucial to the community 

The Editorial Board

It has been a little over nine months since students from Western and around the world have adapted to a new, virtual lifestyle. All things considered, Western has done as much as they can to provide us with a safe environment. However, there is a need for more transparency with information regarding positive cases, and further precautions to be taken on campus.

Some of the controversies started when Western took a long time to announce that fall term would be taught virtually, leaving students abroad scrambling to prepare for another stressful term. And then, Western failed to be clear with their community about the number of COVID-19 cases. 

Information regarding the number of positive coronavirus cases has been notoriously hard to track down due to privacy concerns. However, the university can disclose these numbers while still respecting the patient’s privacy. Plenty of other universities disclosed their numbers to the community, all while respecting the boundaries of privacy. Oregon State University reported a total of seven confirmed cases as of Nov. 4; and, Southern Oregon University has 19 confirmed cases — they even specified if the individual lived on or off campus. Additional information is posted on both of the university’s websites, under “OSU-Cascades Dashboard” and “SOU COVID-19 Cases.”

Eventually, Western followed suit. Now, as of Nov. 16, there are less than 10 confirmed cases in the community. This information, while originally hard to find, is now updated and available at wou.edu/coronavirus/.

While it is reasonable to respect the privacy of positive patients, Western shouldn’t have left their community in the dark for as long as they did. These numbers inform whether or not safety protocols are working or if they need to change.

With those things out of the way, it’s safe to assume that some students of Western appreciate the improved effort. But now, a new problem has arisen in regards to COVID testing for both staff and students. When further researched, it is inconclusive if free testing is offered for staff. 

If you were to look on the COVID-19 webpage — which is ridiculously difficult to navigate by the way — they detail the steps you can take if you are seeking testing. However, the webpage doesn’t help you understand whether or not you should seek a test in the first place. How are students who may be asymptomatic supposed to know what to do? None of this is specified.

The problem is if you check “yes” on the CDC’s survey that you’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive, they will tell you to wait out the 14-day isolation, and if you develop symptoms at the end of that period, you go take the test. While there’s quite a bit of information regarding symptomatic cases, there’s not a lot of specification for asymptomatic cases, which leaves folks uninformed.

Western is a smaller school with already limited funding and budget cuts left and right, so we may be tight on funding, but that doesn’t mean that people deserve to be uninformed. Transparency with Western students and the greater community is what establishes a trusting and close-knit feeling for everyone, especially for a small town like Monmouth.

Students who are looking for information on testing can find it at wou.edu/coronavirus/students. If an appointment needs to be set up, call the Student Health and Counseling Center at 503-838-8313.

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