On Wednesday, March 2, all students on campus received an email from Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Rick Culliton announcing that the University would be returning to a Green Alert Level. After cases at the University reached a staggering 4.73% positivity rate in mid-February, students were relieved by the eventual decline in COVID-19 cases and Culliton’s subsequent announcement. The Argus spoke to several students about their experiences with the recent COVID-19 outbreak on campus.
Upon testing positive, many students were informed of their result through a phone call, email, or text message.
“On Thursday, I got my positive [test result], but I got it [back] super late, at 7:00 p.m.,” Varia Voloshin ’24 said. “I didn’t get a call. I just got an email telling me, ‘This is what you should do before your next rapid test.’”
Most students reported having mild or no symptoms, making their quarantine periods more bearable.
“Luckily I didn’t get too sick, which was a relief,” Ethan Geiger ’24 said.
For those who had tested positive before, getting another positive result was a surprise.
“I got COVID actually exactly 90 days after I had gotten COVID the first time,” Eliza Bender ’24 said. “I got kind of sick, which was not great, [but] thankfully nobody got super sick.”
In accordance with the University’s current isolation policies, many students who lived in single rooms and tested positive were able to quarantine in place.
“I was able to quarantine in my room because I have a two-room double and my roommate also had [COVID-19],” Bender said.
While most students were able to quarantine in their dorm rooms, some had to move to the Inn at Middletown, making the experience much more isolating.
“The first couple of days were fun because I was with my roommate,” Voloshin said. “We were both quarantining. But then, upon being moved to the Inn, it was a bit of an up-and-down experience.”
During the outbreak, life on campus changed drastically. Even students who were not quarantining felt like they were in isolation.
“It has made the environment a little bit quieter on the weekends,” Kavi Talwalkar ’24 said.
Geiger also noted the lack of student activity on campus as a result of the outbreak.
“I did take comfort in the fact that basically everyone had it and the campus was pretty much shut down, so I wasn’t missing out on too much,” Geiger said.
With the high amount of students who had to quarantine or were close contacts, some professors moved classes entirely online to Zoom. In cases where classes continued to go on in person, students who were in isolation had to adapt to the circumstances.
“The responsibility falls on you to organize how you’re going to Zoom into class,” Bender said. “I had to give a presentation, so [my partner] projected my Zoom [on the board] and I was on fullscreen doing a presentation, which was not the best.”
Even though classes remained in full swing, it was hard for some students to keep up with the academic expectations.
“When I got COVID the first time, I got behind on my work just because it’s a legitimate sickness,” Bender said. “You want to take care of yourself. It’s really hard for me to be super productive when the only place I can be is my room.”
Some students believe that the University could have handled the outbreak better.
“I think that what [the University] could’ve done was to be stricter on [monitoring] close contacts,” Talwalkar said. “On the weekend, if you found out you were a close contact, you [couldn’t] get tested until Monday and you’re not going to get your results back until Tuesday.”
Talwalkar recounted the additional challenges he dealt with during the outbreak as a Resident Advisor in Bennet Hall.
“The outbreak and COVID [have] definitely been very stressful for me,” Talwalkar said. “I definitely had to be more attuned to…what to answer when students would ask me a COVID-related question.”
Since all of the dorm rooms in Bennet are triples, managing quarantine was especially difficult.
“A lot of residents aren’t comfortable sleeping in the same room as one of their roommates who got contact-traced or who might have COVID, [and] when one roommate does have it, the other two are most likely to get it,” Talwalkar said. “I know my boss, who is the head of all the RAs in my specific area, was really stressed out because he had to handle all of these different Bennet residents getting COVID, and deciding where to place them because already we’re short on housing.”
In addition, students who had to quarantine agreed that getting food posed challenges. Like many others, Geiger picked up food from Usdan University Center while quarantining.
“[It] was pretty convenient, but got tiring really fast because the food kind of tastes the same and it was all [from the] Classics section,” Geiger admitted.
Voloshin, who was quarantined at the Inn and received food there, echoed Geiger’s sentiments.
“[At the Inn], the food situation wasn’t the best,” Voloshin said. “I felt like I wasn’t eating enough or I wasn’t eating the right things to make me feel better.”
Even though some students felt the outbreak had been unavoidable given the omicron variant’s high transmissibility, they remain hopeful that the University will continue to manage the pandemic.
“I honestly feel like it was inevitable that an outbreak would happen,” Talwalkar said. “I think [the University] did what [it] needed to do in order to have good precautionary measures.”
Eugenia Shakhnovskaya can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.