As COVID-19 rages on throughout communities worldwide, people across the globe have had to adjust to a brand-new vocabulary. Terms such as “contact tracing” and “nano-particles” have been added to our daily dialogues. Perhaps the most ominous, especially for younger generations, such as us Zags, is “quarantine.”
Gonzaga students who are placed into quarantine seemingly vanish into thin air. They are ushered off with their belongings in a golf cart — only to return weeks later, integrating right back into normal life.
After my positive test results hit, I knew I’d soon catch a glimpse of what occurs after this process of “vanishing.”
I get the unique pleasure of pulling back the curtain, allowing a peek into the black box that is the specter of quarantine. As intimidating as the idea of “quarantine” may seem, my experience with a positive test result and subsequent isolation was unusual, but never rising to the intense reputation it carries in society.
It’s difficult to imagine having COVID-19. Throughout this year I was suspicious, just like many others, that perhaps the brief cold I suffered in March was COVID-19 and I had already fallen victim to a mild symptom case. My misconception proved false, when I was awoken to a Tuesday morning phone call from GU Health Services.
It was a surreal moment to be sure, but the feeling faded quickly as I was brought back to reality by thoughts of classes, Zoom meetings and deadlines. I collected myself and then of course, called my parents.
The situation proved relatively simple, I was to be moved from Chardin (isolation for students who were exposed) to Roncalli Hall, the confirmed positive case dorm.
Staying in a hall where everyone was positive changed living circumstances dramatically. We were allowed outside of our rooms so long as we never left the building. In addition to this we were not required to wear masks; I found myself shaking hands with people for the first time in months.
Meeting the people in Roncalli Hall was a highlight; I engaged with new faces — many of whom I would never have had the chance to interact with otherwise.
This new living arrangement was a stark contrast to the four days I spent at Chardin wherein I was not allowed outside my room for any reason, at any time.
Each day at Roncalli between the hours of 10 a.m. to noon we were asked to stay in our room as staff swept the building to clean common areas and deliver food. After those two hours we were free to move about, occupying common areas or perhaps walking the stairs to get some exercise.
The only time spent outside in quarantine was for food pickup. In Chardin, this consisted of a knock on the door, waiting about five minutes to be sure staff had cleared the area, and grabbing the food left in the doorway. Roncalli Hall saw a more creative workaround to mitigate risk of getting COVID-19 from those inside; staff placed meals in locked mini fridges along the outside wall, calling students to inform them when food was ready for pickup.
Food services were incredibly considerate, at any time we were able to voice dietary restraints and modify what we received with a phone call or email. Despite this ingenuity and fluidity of the food system, actual meal quality was lacking. This is in part due to constraints of the microwave and fridge, which were all we were provided in our rooms, as well as the sheer number of specific students’ individual food needs being taken into account.
Generally, I’ll eat what’s provided, as it’s the polite and Midwestern thing to do. However, I have to defy my Midwestern mannerisms in this situation to air grievances with the food distributed. It wasn’t very good.
Often breakfast included eggs, which are one of the most hopeless foods to reheat. Lunch and dinner fared slightly better, but never really exceeded any (already low) expectations. Common dinner cuisine included a few ounces of protein such as chicken breast or pork chop served over rice, perhaps with an unknown sauce and limp vegetables soaked with oil.
Besides main meals we also received rations of snacks which usually included a bag of chips, a couple granola bars and a fruit item. However, the staple of quarantine food delivery were the drinks. Each new day yielded approximately two Gatorades, an apple or orange juice and one or two bottles of water. As far as drinks go, we were consistently delivered a great deal more than most students drank, so I returned with a large paper bag filled up with Gatorades as a quasi-reward for my quarantine “sentence.”
I imagine the last thing GU dining services thought they would have to do is provide food for those in extended-stay quarantine. I appreciate all the hard work that staff at GU has put into keeping students healthy and ensuring the safety of the quarantine process. The food is partly a reflection of the current crummy circumstances, and in my opinion, not necessarily a reflection of the work put in by the amazing staff here at GU.
Other than the unfortunate food situation, quarantine life proved similar to regular dorm life.
Time inched along slowly during certain portions of quarantine and flew by in others. Zoom meetings, assignments and online classes kept us busy, and of course on the weekends we gathered for some friendly competition in pingpong, pool and card games. Catching the Lakers game on the TV downstairs or listening to someone play the piano in the upstairs commons added bright spots of normalcy to our unusual stay in Roncalli.
Overall, my personal experience with quarantine wasn’t completely negative. During my time, I got to know other students who would likely say the same thing. It was 14 days, but it wasn’t our whole lives.
Checking in with family, resources from GU, social media and of course Netflix gave us opportunities to “escape.” At the end of the day I’m incredibly thankful my symptoms were mild, as many people are not nearly as fortunate. I hope that through my experience in quarantine you might be able to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to go through this process at GU and challenge the stigma against the difficulties of quarantine.