What Happens in Quarantine Stays in Quarantine
Anna Darling '24
All students and faculty at Randolph-Macon College are required to complete their Kallaco health checks every morning. But what happens when they do not pass their health checks? Per school policy, students who are positive for or suspected to have COVID-19 must be temporarily removed from their on-campus housing, either to return home or be placed in special quarantine housing arranged by the college. Those in quarantine are provided 3 meals a day, snacks, and bottled water for the duration of their stay. At first glance, a long stay in a big hotel room may seem like a good deal, but with the perks always come the losses, some of which being the loneliness and boredom that can onset in quarantine.
When Katie Loiselle, a freshman on campus, realized her suitemate had a sore throat and a fever of 103.5, she marked her health check, noting that her suitemate could have potentially contracted COVID-19. A few hours later, she received a call from Campus Safety directing her to pack her things and head to the Hampton Inn, one of the school’s designated off-campus quarantine locations. When she arrived, Loiselle was instructed to use the back stairwell to the second floor because “[those in quarantine] weren’t supposed to use the elevator.” When she finally arrived at her hotel room, Loiselle looked at the bright side of things, noticing she had “a huge room to [her]self” and “total control over the thermostat.”
On her first day of quarantine, Loiselle experienced some trouble with meal delivery. Since her paperwork took all day to process and she was not allowed to leave her room upon arrival, Loiselle did not eat a meal until 7 pm. When Loiselle asked her case manager about the issue, she was provided a meal from a local restaurant delivered by Grubhub. After this, she was provided “Estes quality” food twice a day. Loiselle states that “everything had to be microwaved,” and jokes that she “still never figured out how to work the microwave properly.”
Besides these food issues, Loiselle feels that “overall, it was a good experience.” She had time to finish homework, self-reflect, and “catch up on some much-needed sleep.” When she was bored, she would tune into virtual club meetings that helped keep her entertained. She expressed that she felt “more afraid of having COVID than having to go to the hotel to isolate.” Luckily, a couple of days later and after multiple COVID-19 tests, Loiselle and her suitemates received negative results, with one testing positive for group C strep throat instead. Once this alternative explanation for her suitemate’s illness was confirmed, Loiselle was allowed to return to campus after four days of isolation.
Since the college began placing students in quarantine and isolation, the Counseling Center has started hosting weekly support group sessions over Zoom. This group is designed to create a safe space for students who are experiencing the unique struggles that come with quarantine and isolation, and meetings occur on Fridays at 3 pm. In these meetings, Directors Dr. Elizabeth Schubert, Dr. Chantelle Bernard, and Dr. David Gosling have discovered that those in quarantine experience “isolation, loneliness, and boredom.” Some also worry about how to stay active, as it is difficult to get any exercise when confined to a single room. Schubert offers some advice for those who are struggling: connect with others, practice self-care, do “jumping jacks, sit ups, push-ups, or even watch workout videos to get your heart rate up,” and remember that the pandemic will not last forever. Schubert also advises that students build a steady schedule and stick to it. “No naps!,” she says, as they tend to be disruptive to a consistent sleep schedule.
For those living on campus and following Protect the Hive guidelines, the Counseling Center offers a support group called “Better Together” that meets on Fridays at 3 pm. Since many students are experiencing “Zoom fatigue” from constantly attending classes and activities over Zoom, the counselors have decided to host these sessions outside starting on October 17. In these meetings, the counselors have learned that many students “are worried about having to go home, not being able to socialize, building connections, getting internships, [and] transmitting COVID to family members.” Luckily, the counselors have also seen students adapting to their situations and getting used to being on campus while following Protect the Hive regulations. The information provided on the Data Dashboard has helped ease anxiety as well, informing students of how many cases are active and how many students and faculty are in quarantine.
Why start these support groups? The counselors explain that they wanted to help students “connect” and “discuss similar experiences,” bringing validation to those struggling through this time. “Back when we originally started, I think there was more of a stigma around counseling,” Shubert explains, “but students … seem to be less concerned about that [now].” Luckily, many people are signing up for individual counseling and working against the old stigma.
Wellness Coordinator Tammy Roe also provides advice on what to do during quarantine. She states that “staying active has many benefits, such as improving our mood, promoting energy, controlling our weight, combatting health issues, helping us sleep, and it can be social and fun.” One example of a possible workout is tracking “10,000 steps a day by using a fitness app on your phone or smart watch.” Besides exercise, Roe says to “connect with friends and family daily, get outdoors, try a new recipe, read a book, or make something with your hands.” After conducting a social media survey, students gave examples of how they keep entertained during quarantine: playing violin, calling friends, going on walks, binging televisions shows on Netflix, hanging out with friends (six feet apart, of course), scrolling through TikTok, doing lots of homework, painting, and reading. To those anxious about going into quarantine, Shubert says, “plan ahead.” Write a list down of things you would want to have with you in case you are instructed to go into quarantine, such as “video games, puzzles, Sudoku, books, or portable workout equipment.” Loiselle also suggests to “pack light [but] bring snacks.”
More information about the aforementioned support groups is available on the Randolph-Macon College website. As a community, we have been following our guidelines and keeping each other safe. Let's continue following Protect the Hive guidelines, doing our daily health checks, and wearing our masks. Stay safe!