by CALLIE HARKINS
This semester, students with COVID-19 who are quarantining in the designated isolation dorm, Marshall Hall, are receiving fewer accommodations than in the past.
Unlike previous semesters, there is no COVID-19 care coordinator in Marshall. Before the fall 2022 semester, there was someone available 24/7 to aid those in isolation. Students received assistance moving in belongings and were given the opportunity to choose various menu items for meals that would then be delivered directly to their door, neither of which are offered now. A quarantine buddy program, which paired students in Marshall together via text, was also created to make students feel less alone during their stay but is no longer happening.
Without an in-person staffer on-site, the Student Health Center monitors the well-being of students remotely.
“The SHC reaches out to those in isolation including those in Marshall and those that are off campus and those who went home,” said Nancy Wang, director of the Student Health Center. “Depending on how the students are doing, if they have access to their medical provider, we check in with them at least every other day Monday to Friday. If they are having any health concerns, we see them at the SHC for an evaluation.”
“I didn’t really have that much interaction with the University while I was there,” said senior Earth and environmental science major Ava Spencer, who recently quarantined in Marshall. “I think at this point the school just wants the building available to those who don’t have other options, but it mostly felt like a ‘if you need to be stay here you can but you’re on your own.’”
Spencer’s stay in Marshall lasted for over a week. She tested positive for COVID at the Student Health Center on Friday, Sept. 9, and moved into the isolation dorm later that day. Despite receiving a positive COVID test, Spencer was advised to go back to her apartment and wait for a call that would detail move-in procedures. During this waiting period, Spencer worried she may spread the virus to her roommates who had not tested positive.
“I went home and sat in my apartment masked for about four or five hours before I called the school to ask when I should be expecting information,” she said.
It was only after calling to request more information from the Student Health Center did she receive details regarding her move to Marshall.
“After pushing for an answer, because I didn’t want to be in the apartment with my non-sick roommates, they finally sent me an email with move-in information and told me if I wanted to get a key I would have to go to Marye House,” she said. “I’m not convinced they would’ve gotten in touch with me at all if I hadn’t pestered them about it. Seeing as it was a Friday I’m not sure what I would’ve done if they hadn’t gotten in contact with me.”
Spencer was given little time to pack her belongings and retrieve the key from Marye House.
“Around 4 o’clock is when that call happened and they told me if I wanted a key to my room I’d have to go pick it up at Marye House after 4:30 p.m., essentially giving me 30 minutes to move my belongings and pick up a key before they closed at 5 p.m., all while feeling terrible. I ended up staying in the dorm without a key to my room which made me feel a little unsafe,” she said.
Once in Marshall, Spencer received calls periodically from the Student Health Center regarding any changes to her symptoms. Aside from these calls, it was up to her own discretion on how she would best care for herself. Meals were not provided and students were expected to order delivery or pick up meals in-person.
“I ended up solely eating groceries my partner brought me,” she said.
Mary Bruniany, a junior nursing major, also isolated in Marshall earlier this month. Her stay lasted for seven days. Her experience does not differ from Spencer’s.
“The University did not help me move,” she said. “It wasn’t too bad getting there because my friend had also been recovering from COVID and was in her masking period so she helped me move in.”
Bruniany expressed her frustration at the lack of food provided by the University.
“The school did not supply any meals,” she said. “I either had to walk all the way to the UC to pick up food with an 102 [degree] fever or I asked friends to bring me food which I was super grateful for.”
Throughout her seven day isolation period at Marshall, Bruniany received two phone calls from the Student Health Center regarding her well-being. After testing negative for COVID twice on the eighth day of isolation, she made the decision to move back to her apartment in Eagle Landing.
“It was extremely tiring to walk around and I felt guilty always asking my friends to bring me food because they had stuff to do as well,” she said. “Health-wise, I feel like they adequately checked on me.”
As COVID continues to evolve and the Centers for Disease Control continues to update guidance, Wang understands the confusion amongst students in isolation.
“UMW recognizes how difficult it can be for students in isolation, and every effort is made to help support students who let us know of any issues they are having,” said Wang. “I know that the SHC continues to support our students in isolation as we have in the past 2 years.”
This year’s changes have brought confusion and frustration among students. Lack of concrete information coming directly from the University has left students in quarantine to rely on outside sources to determine what is best for their health and the health of those around them.
“The rules were incredibly confusing,” said Spencer. “Everyone in the dorm had heard different rules about when they could leave so I elected to follow CDC guidelines and came home after I had no symptoms for five days and my roommate felt comfortable with me coming home.”