As students returned to campus following a roughly five month quarantine, many hoped to recoup some of the freedom lost over the summer break. However, rejoining campus life is not as easy for individuals who test positive for COVID-19 or for students who are deemed close contacts of those who test positive. Two students spoke with the Justice to share their stories of isolation and quarantine while on campus. 

Anonymous student

One student, who wished to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, shared his experience with self quarantine, isolation and then quarantine again in a Sept. 10 interview with the Justice. 

On Aug. 18, after meeting with a group of friends for a socially-distanced lunch, one of the students who attended the gathering messaged his friends that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

In response to the news, the anonymous student decided to start a self-imposed quarantine to protect his peers in case he had contracted the virus. The next day, the University told him to continue quarantining, with the exception of going to the Health Center to get tested. The University also sent him a document with resources regarding sanitation equipment, laundry, trash, food and mail services provided in quarantine. 

After being alone in his room for roughly 24 hours, the student began to feel discomfort in his throat. When a Brandeis contact tracer called him on Aug. 19 to check up on possible development of symptoms, the student shared concerns regarding his throat. He was then informed to go to Ziv Quad, where all on-campus students live while in isolation.  

With only two hours to pack up his belongings and no idea of how long he would be staying in Ziv, the student grabbed what he could and opened a Ziv door to a suite that was completely barren, with the exception of a friend who had also developed symptoms following the lunch.   

During his time in isolation, a University staff member would stop by his room to deliver boxed lunch between 11:00 a.m. and12:00 p.m. At around 4:00 p.m., someone would deliver dinner and breakfast for the next morning. 

“The meals were terrible,” the student said. For breakfast, he received either a bagel, muffin or pastry with one of a variety of spreads. For lunch, he was given a sandwich with chips and a cookie. He explained that dinner options had very little protein and vegetables and did not seem to him like the kind of food that would help a student recover from a virus. 

After 36 hours in isolation, the student’s symptoms subsided and he was again given two hours to return to his dorm to quarantine for the remainder of the 14 days. 

According to the University website, students who are close contacts of individuals who test positive for the virus must quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether they have symptoms. They also must be cleared by the Health Center before being able to leave quarantine.

Reflecting on his experience going back and forth between his dorm and Ziv for isolation, the student said it would have been helpful if the University warned him at the start of quarantine of the possibility of needing to quickly pack and move to isolation. Because he frantically gathered his belongings to move to Ziv, the student forgot to pack essentials such as towels. He mentioned a packing list provided by the University would also have been useful. 

Once he returned to his dorm, the student was disappointed with how the University handled his remaining days of quarantine, specifically with regards to transparency and communication. 

For starters, he explained that the document of resources the University provided him did not clearly explain what students were and were not allowed to do. “[The] administration did not have its ducks in a line, did not properly communicate with students, did not tell us what was going on and did not tell us what we were allowed to do,” he said. 

The student then explained that the quarantine information document said that students should schedule a pick-up for someone to do their laundry. After emailing and calling the Dean of Students Office, he learned that quarantined students were allowed to do their own laundry, they were simply discouraged from using laundry machines at peak hours. 

With regards to trash service, the document said students would receive a daily supply of trash bags; however, he did not. Additionally, it was unclear to him whether or not quarantined students were allowed to take out their own trash. 

The student also expressed his difficulties with mail delivery; the document said mail would be delivered directly to dorms, but this did not happen for him. This was particularly stressful, he said, since he was waiting on textbooks to be delivered for classes. 

For the rest of quarantine, the delivered food was disappointing. “There is cognitive dissonance there, where they expect college students to fight off coronavirus with potato chips and cookies,” he said. Eventually, he was able to arrange for more food to be delivered, although the student was not happy with the overall quality of his meals. 

“I do not want to bash Brandeis’ quarantine services.” he said. “I want them to be better because if they don't get better, it puts the campus at risk,” he added. The student expressed his concern that students would dishonestly report symptoms to avoid entering a quarantine in which they would not feel supported.  

Emma Gold ’23

While Emma Gold ’23 did not have to go into isolation, she was quarantined for 14 days prior to the start of classes. Gold was traced as a close contact of an individual who had tested positive for the virus. 

Gold was out buying last minute dorm supplies with friends in Waltham when she received a message from a friend she had seen earlier saying they had tested positive for the virus. She then received a phone call from a Brandeis contact tracer saying she would have to quarantine. 

“My jaw dropped. … I was trying to wrap my head around the idea of going 14 whole days of quarantining,” Gold said.

Despite testing negative for the virus one or two days into quarantine, Gold was still required to quarantine for the full 14 days because of the virus’ prolonged incubation period. 

For the beginning of the 14 days, Gold said she only left her room to go to the bathroom. Eventually, she found out she was allowed to leave to take out the trash and do her laundry. She joked that taking out the trash became an “exciting event of the day.” 

Gold confirmed that communication between the University and the students was not very clear; however, she noted that “anything that didn’t go so well on their part at first, if I spoke up about it, they did a good job at handling it.” 

For example, when Gold complained that the 8 oz. water bottles she received were not enough, a staff member came to her door with a plastic bag full of water bottles. Gold also acknowledged that while she was quarantining, many students were moving onto campus and the University must have been “swamped with a lot of issues.”

Almost everyday, Gold’s contact tracer called her to see how she was doing. The tracer was genuinely interested in her work and life, which “might seem [insignificant] to someone who’s in a day to day life of normalcy, but here in quarantine, someone checking up on you and asking how you’re doing… it’s so much appreciated,” she said. 

Gold also stressed the importance of community during isolation. Having meals with friends over Zoom, staying in touch with family and even having friends visit her from outside her window were all gestures that helped Gold feel less lonely, she explained. 

Having experienced quarantining on campus, Gold suggested that people take the time to check in on their friends who are in quarantine or isolation. “There were so many little gestures that people who were not quarantining did for me that really made the difference,” Gold said.

As the semester continues, Gold explained that students should not begin to disregard health and safety policies just because the campus is doing a good job at handling the virus. She said that the perspective should not be “'Ok, we are doing well so we can be more laxed,' but 'we are doing well so we need to keep enforcing and executing these social distancing and mask wearing policies.'”