LC’s vague COVID policy does not support sick students on campus

Drawing: Person wearing a mask printed with the words "MASK UP," with COVID-19 virus bubbles floating in the background.
Illustration by Hayden Wilkins

After three years of staying safe in a global pandemic you get COVID-19 at Lewis &Clark. What happened? What happens next? 

Generously, our school provides you with two masks and a little one-page pamphlet when you submit the COVID notification form. When my roommate tested positive — the line on the test as bright and clear as it could get in just five minutes — they were asked to sleep with their mask on, as if that would truly keep any of us safe. 

Hoping to perhaps find some sort of resource online instead of catching COVID myself, I discovered what LC would like me to do. 

I could “talk with a friend” to move into their dorm, thus putting them at risk. 

I could stay in my own room with my sick roommate, putting myself at risk. 

I could spend a ridiculous amount of money trying to find a hotel room or Airbnb, plus the added costs of transportation to and from campus, for which I, an international student on a scholarship, simply do not have the resources for. 

Bottom line, I was screwed. Accepting my fate, I stayed in with my roommate until it was confirmed I had COVID too. The lack of resources for me to keep myself safe led to a 103 degree fever, not to mention some of the worst fever dreams I have ever had. But hey, most people with COVID had to go through that, it is inevitable, right?

Last year, Campus Living and Health Services were in cooperation to take care of  isolating students, giving them their own quarantined facilities. Yet this year, communal bathrooms are okay to go in even with a positive case — just wear a mask! Sick (and comorbidly exhausted) students should just stay up late, because it is on them to protect their peers, hoping no one goes into the shower stall after them and pretend that this is doing enough to keep anyone safe. When asked, our hall made a quarantined single restroom. Our dorm room was becoming unsafe. But I guess the biohazard of the mold growing on our dirty dishes was an acceptable risk factor too, since we had no access to a kitchen. Even the piles of laundry grew, leaving us we just had to wear the same clothes for a week.

The lack of nutrition was definitely inevitable too. Because even though our household was able to submit meal requests to the Fields Dining Rall, and we were lucky enough to have lovely friends to bring the meals to us, any and all dietary restrictions simply did not matter enough to be considered. It is inevitable that Bon Appétit will give you days straight of chicken and steamed vegetables. And it is always cold. It will be harder to get better quickly without healthy food that is easy and helpful to eat for a sick person.    

After having experienced the sheer lack of support from the school, and having to rely on my peers to be taken care of, I feel for any freshman falling sick, and in a worst-case scenario, having truly no one to turn to in their time of need. Being sick, and having my equally sick roommate bring me towels soaked in cold water so that I would not faint from my fever, makes one wonder where it all went wrong. We are endlessly grateful for our friends, who day-by-day picked out the best (i.e. actually edible) food for us and made the effort to take care of us. Our community showed up and proved the benefits of communal care. But, quite frankly, they should not have had to sacrifice their time and energy for something that our school should have had plans and measurements for. 

More students will feel the disabling effects of long COVID symptoms at LC. Perhaps next year the administration can accept fewer new freshmen, instead of stuffing us into our dorm halls like sardines in a can, and forcing us to fend for ourselves when they are supposed to take care of us. Perhaps next year they can prove they care about the quality of students’ lives and not just profit and landscaping. 

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