These are the measures that are currently in place if you contract COVID-19 at Sciences Po:
1: Self-quarantine for 14 days.
2: Contact a general practitioner in order to receive professional medical help.
3: Inform the university that you have contracted COVID-19 so that they are aware of the situation, and can better help you follow your classes.
This policy is not enough. Yes, each of these measures are necessary. However, this solution is not comprehensive enough to ensure the health and wellbeing of all students on campus.
There are many issues with this strategy.
Firstly, it is reactionary. Self-quarantining after showing COVID-19 symptoms can often be too little too late. COVID-19 spreads when a person coughs, sneezes or speaks (1). It is completely possible for someone’s only symptom to be a cough. Even with the absence of more severe symptoms that suggest infection, the virus still spreads. Alternatively, perhaps coughing is only your first symptom. Chances are, by the time your second symptom hits – such as a fever – and you realize that you have the virus, you will already have spread it to other people.
Secondly, this policy prioritizes the individual over the community. Every person on campus has their own perspective of the virus and how it will affect them. For some, this means that life continues as normal until either you, or your roommate, contracts the virus. This mindset is bolstered by the fact that, as many of us are healthy young people, COVID-19 presents an unlikely threat to Sciences Po students. Or, maybe you are fearful of the virus, but you would still prefer to live your life as normal, rather than deal with the reality of actively keeping yourself safe. This might involve handwashing, occasional hand-sanitizer, masks – when it’s convenient – and socializing as if the virus didn’t exist. Life is different, but still mostly the same. It only changes when and if you contract the virus. This is another individual response, as the only factor at play is if you, the individual, have COVID-19.
This reality would be convenient if, and only if, everybody felt this way. Yet, there are some people on campus who A) have anxiety about contracting the virus, or B) have pre-existing medical conditions that could endanger their lives if they contracted the virus. For these groups, handwashing and hand-sanitizer are frequent. Masks are on all the time. Socializing can only occur in small groups, preferably with masks on, or social distancing measures in place. In order for people who feel this way to feel comfortable socializing and interacting, everyone needs to respect their wants and needs. A community response is needed.
Sciences Po’s response is not enough, as it is purely individual, mandating quarantine only after contracting the virus. It can – and has – put forth a response that is community focused on campus, but can only truly implement a community focused plan if it chooses to be preventative, rather than reactionary. Sciences Po’s response must force everybody to reject this individual view of the virus, and instead adopt a communal one.
Thus, I propose the following plan.
Effective immediately, Sciences Po Paris campus of Reims’s administration should mandate a 14 day quarantine for all students, followed by fortnightly or monthly testing for all students on campus.
For many reasons, I believe that this is doable, as well as effective.
Firstly, while this will cut into the start of classes, Sciences Po is currently equipped to hold all classes online. This 14 day quarantine could occur at any time during the year, however, the sooner it happens – the better. As the year progresses, our workload only increases in intensity, and not everybody may have reliable access to the internet and zoom. This would likely also require the removal of the mandated attendance during the 14 day quarantine. These 14 days would also allow Sciences Po to set up available testing on campus, contract tracing technology, and daily health checks for students.
Secondly, this mandate is proactive. If every student on campus quarantines for 14 days, it is very likely that all students will be negative (2). If a student were to develop symptoms during this period, a further 14 day quarantine, as currently mandated by Sciences Po, would create as close as we could get to a Sciences Po COVID-19 negative bubble. Implementing available testing on campus, contract tracing technology, and daily health checks would help maintain a COVID free campus (3). To further maintain this situation, it is important that all students do their part to keep Sciences Po COVID-19 negative, such as never holding large gatherings, limiting interactions to small groups of Sciences Po students with a conscientious and proactive attitude towards mask wearing, and always wearing masks when interacting with people outside of Sciences Po. This of course applies to interacting with people in Reims or walking the streets, but also while travelling or visiting family. The act of wearing a mask while interacting with family members may seem extreme, but it would be a necessary measure to maintain this scenario.
This proactive way of dealing with COVID-19 is a community response, which will ultimately lead to a better year for all students. If all students are COVID-19 free, then, while large gatherings of Sciences Po students should still be avoided on the off chance that someone is positive, small gatherings would become much more manageable and safer, without the constant fear of encountering someone who has the virus. This solution, while initially difficult and frustrating, has the potential to lead to a semester that stays largely COVID-19 free. Currently, the Sciences Po administration and student body’s handling of the situation is reactive, and prioritizes an individual lack of concern for the virus.
In our current reality, COVID-19 is here to stay. To avoid this, I urge Sciences Po’s administration, as well as our campus directors, to act and implement this policy, and for the student body to listen to and adhere to it. This is essential if we want all students to have a more integrated, social, happy, healthy, and – most importantly – COVID-19 free semester.
(1) “Q&A On Coronaviruses (COVID-19).” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 17 Apr. 2020, www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses.
(2) “COVID-19: When to Quarantine.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Sept. 2020, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html.
(3) Richtel, Matt. “Looking to Reopen, Colleges Become Labs for Coronavirus Tests and Tracking Apps.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Aug. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/08/30/us/colleges-coronavirus-research.html.