GW releases students quarantined following AIPAC after 12 hours

“I wasn’t going to leave my room to comply with something that wasn’t logical,” one George Washington University freshman, who was asked to enter quarantine, told 'The Washington Post.'

George Washington University (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
George Washington University
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The health center at George Washington University (GW) called 30 students who attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) conference and instructed them to begin self-quarantine early Saturday morning, according to the Washington Post, which noted that a university spokesperson denied the claim.
The retroactive quarantine announced over the weekend, however, directly contradicted earlier instructions GW gave the students after it was revealed that four AIPAC Policy Conference attendees tested positive for coronavirus.
On March 7, the university stated in a campus advisory note: "There has been a determination by public health experts that the two people at the conference did not present symptoms during their visit to DC. The current information indicates that both cases have no identifiable risk for anyone exposed to them at the conference. After conferring with DC Department of Health and GW’s public health experts, we have determined that there is no current need for those students who attended to continue to self-quarantine."
According to the students, after receiving a 1 a.m. phone call from the university health center, they were escorted out of their dorms to One Washington Circle Hotel just off campus to begin their quarantine.
"They told me I didn’t have a choice and I needed to leave my dorm immediately and stay at a hotel,” one freshman who was asked to enter quarantine told the newspaper.
University officials, however, claim the retroactive self-quarantine was optional and some students chose not to enter.
Twelve hours later, after they were rushed out of their dorm rooms with towels covering their mouths, GW’s assistant vice president of health and security Kathleen Fox reversed the decision and sent all the students who spent the night in the hotel room home when the university determined that there was "no identifiable risk to the community from the conference.”
“We realize this situation, especially with how quickly information develops can be scary, and we did not take the decision lightly,” the email said, according to the Post. “We received information from DC [Department of Health], GW’s public health experts and, importantly, from members of the student community as it was developing.”
“With the information we had at the time, we took the action we believed would minimize risk to you all and to the community,” Fox said. “Today we have worked with DC and our healthcare community to determine that, at this time, there is no identifiable risk to the community from the conference.”
According to the Post, this incident has caused students to lose faith in the university's ability to make health determinations regarding the coronavirus spread, with many believing the decision-making process has been more impulsive than educated.
“I wasn’t going to leave my room to comply with something that wasn’t logical,” one freshman asked to enter quarantine told the Post.
The retroactive quarantine indicates an abundance of confusion as to what protocols should be followed by universities officials when faced with an outbreak on their campus. As these cases start to become more commonplace across the country, the situation at George Washington University alludes to a larger issue: a lack of direction coming from public health officials as the outbreak spreads, focused on educating university officials regarding proper procedures to abide by in order to contain the virus and prevent it from spreading further.