Law school graduate tests positive for COVID-19 after taking the bar exam at DU


DENVER (KDVR) — A law school graduate tested positive for COVID-19 after taking the bar exam at the University of Denver over the course of two days this week.

Minutes after finishing two eight-hour days of the exam, Sydney Donovan learned she was positive for the virus.

“I had no idea,” Sydney Donovan said. “I passed temperature checks, I still don’t have a fever, I passed all the questionnaires. I had zero symptoms but I clearly had this in my system before Monday morning.”

The only reason Donovan took an exam was in preparation for a shoulder surgery scheduled for this week. She had no doubt she would pass the exam and didn’t think twice about it.

She said she still feels fine physically. Emotionally, however, she says she feels terrible.

“This is a profession that cares about ethics. We don’t want to do that to other people,” Donovan said, adding, “I feel horrible that I exposed people and also it is so upsetting that this is something that was preventable and it wasn’t prevented.”

Donvan was part of a group of students that had petitioned for an alternative to an in-person bar exam. They requested a one-day online exam or the ability to temporarily practice law, similar to what other states have granted.

Colorado went forward with in-person exams with safety measures in place. Additionally, examinees were given an option to put off their exam until February with limited survived work capabilities. 

“We had masks on, we were six feet apart,” Donovan said. “The only time our masks came off, we were outside eating lunch. But at the end of the day, I was still sitting in a room with people for eight hours, two days in a row. That’s a lot of time to be indoors with people when there’s somebody who is COVID-positive in there.”

Colorado’s Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel tells FOX31 Donovan passed two temperature checks and successfully completed four health questionnaires.

“Fortunately, the examinee complied with our mask requirement during the exam and inside the building, and also maintained six-foot distancing during the exam,” Attorney Regulation Counsel’s Jessica Yates said.

Yates explained there were 21 people testing in the room, plus two proctors. There were also staggered time entries and different doors to reduce interaction.

“Because of the consistent wearing of masks, particularly with six-foot distancing, they do not deem the testing environment as ‘close contact’ with a COVID positive person,” Yates said, adding, “The public health authorities are not asking individuals in the same testing room to self-isolate or be tested at this time.”

However, Donovan still worries about her classmates and examinees in other states who may be put in the same situation. 

“It’s Russian roulette on who’s going to be hurt on it or not,” she said.

DU’s COVID-19 response team began contact tracing and notified those who may have been exposed.

A spokesperson said:

“In circumstances when a community member or visitor to campus informs the University of Denver that they have tested positive for COVID-19, the University initiates a contact tracing protocol so that anyone who may have been exposed to the virus is promptly notified.”

DU says its top priority is the safety and security of the university community.

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