Column: What it’s like isolating for Covid as an on-campus student

When I moved into my dorm in September, there was always the possibility I’d contract Covid-19. Throughout my time as an on-campus resident, I wasn’t aware of what the protocols were when someone did test positive. Students had reported using the Sheffield Square Apartments as isolation units during fall quarter, according to 14 East. There wasn’t a whole lot of transparency from DePaul Housing about how and where students were expected to isolate once they reported a positive Covid-19 case.

I got to experience the roller coaster firsthand as my roommates and I tested positive for Covid-19 this past week.

When my roommate initially tested positive, it took about a day after she reported her case to DePaul’s Covid-19 dashboard until we heard from DePaul Housing. Someone showed up at our door asking her to respond to an email. By then, my roommate went to isolate at home, while my other roommate and I awaited for our results.

When I filled out the report a couple days later, there was no option to indicate I was an on-campus resident. After a couple of hours, my phone was blowing up from calls from the residential director on duty asking about my symptoms, who then told me to pack everything I would need for the next 5-10 days.

My head was spinning. I was experiencing the worst of my symptoms and I couldn’t really comprehend what was happening, and that’s when the residential director emailed us our unit assignment, dropped off the keys and said to leave immediately.

Within a span of 30 minutes, I had to prepare to brave the next several days of whatever conditions DePaul Housing and Covid-19 were going to throw at me.

Our place wasn’t actually that bad. My roommate and I each had our own rooms and a shared bathroom at 1010 W. Belden Ave. I learned later that DePaul Housing had recently started using this space as isolation units. It was also a shock to learn that students also live here aside from isolation. Did they know we were here?

Our unit sadly did not have laundry, so we were stuck with whatever we had brought with us. This was tricky because we could either be here anywhere from three to eight days. Once I found out that my stay had been extended, I freaked out because I didn’t bring enough clothes.  As a result, the resident director told me to rewear my dirty clothes.

The timeframe of when a student starts to experience symptoms will determine their first five days in isolation. DePaul initiated my isolation period on May 5 when I received symptoms, but I was not actually in the designated isolation space until May 7. I was scheduled to retest on May 10; when I tested positive again, another five days were added. I would not retest on May 15— I was going to be released at 5 p.m. In all, I would spend about eight days actually isolated from everyone else.

For a couple of days, I was still experiencing symptoms such as headache, cough and sore throat. Luckily, I had bought some medicine and brought it with me. I was shocked that DePaul didn’t offer any kind of advice on its isolation guide or through any emails about what students can do if they needed medicine to ease their symptoms. The only options seemed that a student would order medicine through a delivery app. At the Lincoln Park Student Center, they sell medicine like Tylenol, Midol and Nyquil. I’m unsure why DePaul Housing could not have provided students, especially with Covid-19, medicine to ease their symptoms. I inquired about receiving some Tylenol and I was pleased when Housing staff could delivery it at no cost. If this a service they can offer, they should advertise it students right away.

Going through all the symptoms wasn’t the worst part of isolation. Nobody picked up our trash for six days, although the isolation guide said it would be picked up daily. They finally did after a week, but Public Safety had to get it. I don’t believe trash services come to our building regularly. My roommate and I reached out multiple times to the residential director on duty for somebody to please pick up our trash. We resorted to hoarding bags from delivery to hold everything. All of our delivery meals had to be thrown out and we had no reusable utensils or cups. The best response we got was whether we were leaving the trash in the right place. It was strange that nobody believed us. There were two residential director transitions during our stay and they did not communicate about it.

The odd thing is that these are students. The residential director filled us in and was the one to monitor everything. The contact tracer and the associate residential directors were the only non-students. There isn’t much separating me and the directors other than the fact I had Covid-19 — why was DePaul Housing having students run all of this?

I did appreciate the dining service that delivered my meals twice a day. They would contact me if they ran out of something I ordered and they were delivered punctually. I also appreciated that the residential director on duty would check in twice a day, every morning and night, to see how we were doing. It was reassuring to know someone was aware that we were here.

The pandemic is not over yet, and who knows how long we will have to live in a world where universities need isolation dorms? On-campus residents should be more aware about the protocols in place and what to expect as we continue to navigate changing Covid-19 guidelines.