Over the weekend, my entire house was quarantined at the Best Western for possible exposure to a COVID-19 case. I feel that the College portrays this as a smooth and well-planned process, but that was not my personal experience. It all began when I received a message through Microsoft Teams indicating that I, as well as the rest of my house, would have to go into quarantine from a staff member in the Dean of Students office. While one or two members of my house got on brief calls with this point of contact, we received very little information about next steps or why it was even necessary for us to go into quarantine. It was Friday afternoon, so we were all dealing with going to class, but still left to wonder just exactly what was going on. I missed classes in the time that our house was on Teams calls with the Dean of Students office staff, packing and moving into the Best Western. Our house was released from quarantine around 45 hours later after our isolated house member got a negative test result.
The entire weekend was filled with inconsistencies. We first wondered why we could not stay in our own house on campus to quarantine if the College considered us already exposed. Our point of contact explained that it was because the shared bathrooms and poor ventilation in our house could lead to further exposure. However, while in isolation, our house member was isolated in the same house as another person who was a possible positive case. For meals, the College delivered lunch and dinner to the doors of the hotel rooms of everyone in quarantine. Then, for breakfast, we were instructed to go down to the lobby, sit with other quarantined students and eat with our masks off — with no to-go option available — then return to our rooms. While this was comforting because it reminded me of meeting friends for what we all know is the best meal of the day, Lowry breakfast, I do not think this behavior is what the CDC would define as “quarantine.” In fact, we ate breakfast with another quarantined house. Eating meals together is something my house has avoided all semester, meaning that sharing breakfast in the hotel not only exposed us to each other more than usual, but also to an entire extra group of students with whom we normally would not share meals. I cannot imagine that the shared ventilation in our house could be a higher risk factor than eating meals together in close proximity — without masks on, of course.
Another major factor in this experience that I feel the College vastly overlooked was the mental and emotional toll of the process. When asked how this would be handled, our point of contact in the Dean of Students office seemed to have no reply. They said we could continue to see a counselor if we had one already in place on campus, or they could direct us to outside resources. My mental health began to deteriorate very quickly in quarantine, but since I am not already on the counseling rotation, I had no access to professional help, unless you count binge watching the new season of “Schitt’s Creek.”
I acknowledge that I have been very critical in this article. I am by no means a public health expert or even fully aware of how the school came to these decisions and procedures, so I want to recognize that this is purely my experience and opinion based on my limited knowledge. While at the time I believed the move to be an overreaction, I do want to commend the school for keeping their student body safe up until this point.
My recommendations to improve this process are to work with the Best Western to have breakfast delivered to the rooms of quarantined students, allocate mental health services directly to people in quarantine, isolate possible cases in completely separate buildings and have a more rigorous review process of these quarantine procedures. Again, I acknowledge that I have no knowledge of the school’s budget for this matter or many other things going on in the background. However, this process is disrupting students’ lives physically, mentally and emotionally. For students, my recommendation is if you find out a friend is in quarantine, reach out to them. While I was in quarantine, some friends did not realize how stressful this process was; therefore, they didn’t reach out. While this is not their fault, it still just added confusion and anxiety to the whole process. This process was way more stressful than I imagined, and would’ve been even worse without the support of friends.