The two weeks before spring break were some of the most stressful of my college experience. This was not due to midterms or my mom’s visit, but because of COVID-19. This two-week period fell on the exact two-year anniversary of the outset of the pandemic. You might think that after a full two years, LC might be well-versed in dealing with the virus. However, based on my experience, you would be wrong. The college is woefully underprepared in terms of helping students exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19, and are not considering the material realities of what it means to test positive while living on campus.
It all started with one friend, who I had been in contact with, testing positive. Then another. More and more people I knew started to test positive. It took two full days for me to receive an automated close contact email from Health Promotion & Wellness. When I received my email, it included almost no helpful information. If you have been exposed, as long as you do not have symptoms, you are fine to continue going about your daily activities as long as you are wearing a mask and plan to test yourself five days after exposure.
I was shocked by this. Even after being directly exposed to the virus, I was allowed to go about my day, even eating in Fields Dining Hall like normal. Despite my anxieties about this, I was not offered many alternatives, so I went about my daily business. I had no symptoms and I was testing negative on both rapid tests (all of which were my own) and a PCR, which I had purchased on my own accord to be extra cautious.
A full week after being exposed, I woke up with a sore throat. I immediately called the Health Center, which was able to fit me in that day, only after recommending that, for some reason, I drink a “hot toddy,” a hot drink with whiskey, and asking me what I thought could be wrong before even scheduling me for a test. Although I had two negative rapid tests from the past two days, I could not shake the feeling that I had COVID-19. I ended up testing positive on the Health Center’s PCR test.
After my diagnosis, everything only got worse. After missing a week of class and being stuck inside, I was looking forward to spring break and hopefully testing negative on day six of my illness, which happened to be the first day of spring break. However, it turned out that the Health Center was closed that day and had limited availability during the break.
I received an email with this information on Friday, March 18. It also included a link to more information about isolating over break. Buried in this link was the information that, to my surprise, there would be no meal service for isolating students over break. Instead, they provided information on how to order groceries and Domino’s delivery. This was troubling to me for a few reasons. First of all, I was not supposed to leave my room except to pick up meals and take out trash. I do not have a fridge or microwave in my room. What did they want me to do?
Additionally, the fact that they had not told me this, and I had to find it out myself, was infuriating. Having to unexpectedly order days worth of groceries and delivery is not cheap; fortunately, I was able to afford to do so. However, for many people, this would be a large financial burden. The school should have offered vouchers, or, at the very least, provided the one meal a day that was being served at Fields Dining Hall. Being in my room all day did not make me motivated to organize my meals, and I was not eating as much as I should have been.
COVID-19 is not a joke. Being sick was debilitating for the first few days. I was extremely tired and achy, and the emotional toll of being stuck in my small room for days on end was not easy to endure. The school expecting us to coordinate all of this for ourselves seems like a lot to ask, especially while we are sick. Two of my friends who got sick earlier had to move to isolation rooms. Moving everything needed for what could end up being a ten-day stay while also experiencing a respiratory illness is a lot to handle.
There also seems to be a total lack of communication between different departments that help students who are isolating. When I talked to a nurse on the phone, she instructed me to keep picking up my meals and was surprised when I told her that there would be no meals over spring break. I was told that after I was diagnosed, there would be tests and an N95 mask delivered to me. This never happened. No one was following up with me to make sure I was isolating, to see if I was okay or to ensure I had everything I needed.
Overall, this experience left me feeling unsupported and not well communicated with. I found myself having to rely on my support system of friends quite a bit for picking up packages, food and supplies. Fundamentally, the school is acting under the assumption that every case of COVID-19 will be asymptomatic or mild and that students have the resources to know what to do, but that is not the case. Even with three doses of the vaccine, I still felt awful. Being isolated for days on end is stressful and definitely took an emotional toll on me.
LC has had two years to prepare for an outbreak of this magnitude, and yet it felt unorganized and as though they had unrealistic expectations of what I was capable of keeping track of, even as I recovered from this illness.