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Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024
The Observer

Senate discusses rising case numbers, difficulties ordering tests

The second student senate meeting of the semester brought about the discussion of the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation on campus, new merchandise for the group and the approval of a new student senator.

The senate saw the effects of the pandemic within the meeting, as seats were left empty due to members attending virtually on Zoom. Senators looked to answer some persistent questions about COVID-19 after senior and student body vice president Matthew Bisner met with administration to discuss the issue. 

First, Bisner clarified the University administration’s goals for battling the pandemic.

“We talked to administration, and they are very confident that we are going to meet our booster requirement right now,” Bisner said. “They were very blunt with us, and attitudes have shifted from ‘We don’t want anyone with COVID’ to ‘We do not want to overload the hospitals.’”

Bisner also discussed the issue of test availability on campus. The federal government launched its website for ordering free at-home tests on Tuesday, but like many other Americans living in communal or multi-unit housing, Bisner said, many Notre Dame students living in dorms and apartments have had trouble ordering their four tests. The issue lies in the United States Postal Service’s mailing system not recognizing some addresses as multi-unit buildings.

Senators pressed on for answers, bringing their own thoughts to the discussion. Senior and off-campus president Thomas Davis pointed out that Notre Dame seems to have stepped away from large-scale surveillance testing, to which Bisner agreed. Davis also wondered how the University could receive a fully accurate case count, seeing as many students travel off campus to get tested.  

Other senators brought up the notion of acquiring tests on campus, which continues to be a difficult task for many. Sophomore and Pasquerilla West senator Veronica Slevin offered to help organize a drive for extra unused tests, because many at-home testing kits include multiple tests. She said she believes this effort could be very important, especially in light of Bisner’s earlier discussion about students having trouble ordering their government-subsidized tests.

“If people got tests and did not need to use them, maybe there is a way people could coordinate some type of drive or giveaway, or donate them to the University,” Slevin suggested.

A question shared among many senators was why the University continues to be strict on discouraging dual-mode learning when students are sick. After the COVID-19 dashboard’s first update of the spring semester on Tuesday, the University’s positivity rate was revealed to be 14%.

Sophomore Knott Hall senator Abraham Figueroa raised the question of Notre Dame possibly moving classes online due to the rise in cases.

“It’s not foreseeable to me,” Bisner answered. “I will never say it’s impossible, but I would say it’s improbable.”

In a more lighthearted discussion, the senate then debated their merchandise designs for the year. Despite some pleas to revise the navy blue sweatshirt by adding yellow and gold lettering, the group eventually agreed to maintain the original design. Veteran members may receive a patch to make their “vintage” sweatshirt stand out.

Senators also voted in favor of suspending the election of the new Cavanaugh Hall senator, given that there was only one candidate. Cavanaugh’s new senator, first-year Abbey Donahue, will attend her first meeting next Wednesday, Jan. 26.