It’s the first day of September. My housemates and I have been living in our off-campus house for about two weeks now, cooking delicious dinners together, going on fun day-trip adventures and getting acclimated to being actual homeowners at 20 years old.
It is 1:30 p.m. on the first day of September, and I lethargically open my laptop, unhappy that I have to sit on Zoom for another hour and 15 minutes. But it’s OK, because I know that as soon as it is over, I will be meeting up with a friend to do work outside in Farrington Square, basking in the amazing sunny weather. And of course, I cannot forget my fun dinner plans that night, the first time I was going out to a restaurant since moving back to school. Excitement rushes over me, and I begin the lecture…
It is 2:15 p.m. on the first day of September and I am growing antsy, tuning in and out of the lecture, while longingly looking outside and staring everywhere but the computer screen. I decided to check my phone for the 10th time during this Zoom class, knowing very well that I checked about two minutes before and there were zero messages. However, this time, there were a bunch of notifications popping up from my housemate group chat.
It is 2:22 p.m. on the first day of September, and I read the following message: Guys, I tested positive. The first thought in my mind is: this cannot be real. The other four of us received negative test results just that morning, we spent every waking moment together, eating meals together, sharing bathrooms and produce … this cannot be real and that’s that. The only conclusion I can draw is that she is playing a joke on us, and I turn my phone over and continue to listen to my lecture, as if my mind did not even want to think of a possibility that this could be true.
It is 2:50 p.m. on the first day of September, and I slowly open my door and walk downstairs to an unfamiliar space: tension in the air and silence. The hours that follow have been consumed by anxiety sinking in, my housemate locked in her room upstairs isolated, and the rest of us growing hysterical. In a matter of minutes our world turned upside down, with the realization that we will be stuck in our house for two weeks, and the possibility of us and our friend getting extremely sick.
As I write now out of quarantine, patting me and my incredible roommates on the back for making through this experience together, I have a mix of emotions.
To start, I would like to say I am thankful for a few things:
First, I would like to pat my housemates and I on the back for making through the two weeks of being stuck in our house and not wanting to kill each other. I truly feel that we made the best out of our situation and handled it with grace.
Secondly, I am thankful that my housemate, who tested positive, never showed any symptoms. Her health stayed intact as well as other kids’ who thankfully tested negative after interacting with her. She handled isolation with immense grace and poise, in a manner that I personally would have not been able to do.
Third, during these two weeks, we really saw who our true friends are. The amount of generous gestures that were done for us, whether it be getting our groceries, bringing us puzzles, surprising us with ice cream or our favorite lunch orders, we are forever grateful to those who went above and beyond to help us and cheer up our days.
Now, for the not-so-good realizations I have made throughout this experience:
First, as much as we took note of all the amazing people who went out of their way to help us, we also realized the people that did not. Instead of the text messages that read, “How are you,” some would turn it about themselves and tell us how they are affected by our situation. In a span of hours after the news broke, it seemed as if half of the school knew. Rumors began to swirl of our whereabouts that were quite laughable upon hearing.
Second, and this is the big one, Lehigh University administration and health officials should not only be ashamed, but frankly appalled on how they are handling the pandemic on this campus. Officials were quick to call each one of us to tell us the implications and consequences of breaking quarantine, which included suspension and possible expulsion, but did absolutely nothing to help us deal with this scary uncertainty. Although my housemate who tested positive pays full tuition to the university, she was denied access to the isolation dorms that were relatively empty at this time, as it was simply “against regulations,” which basically means that it is not their responsibility.
This administration was very OK with leaving a possible COVID patient in a house with a bunch of other people without any care that she could get the rest of us infected and sick. But it’s OK, because we all paid our full tuition, so what was needed out of us has been accomplished for Lehigh.
Lehigh University chose to bring back socially-deprived college students to campus, decided to only test students twice in the beginning of the year and stop indefinitely after that with no notice of future tests (Lehigh has since expanded its surveillance testing). They proceeded to threaten students with academic suspension/expulsion, which would remain on students’ records. It is a disgrace, and I am genuinely disgusted to be associated with the incompetence of this administration. We were never given an ounce of assistance but were told all the possible ways we could receive repercussions if we did not follow their rules.
So that’s my quarantine story! Hopefully you will not need to experience that, but if you do, a word of advice: puzzles, Scandal, and online shopping helps.