Living with COVID-19 on a college campus

A Computer Generated Graphic of the Coronavirus Developed by the Center for Disease Control. (Courtesy of the CDC)

On Friday September 4, St. John Fisher College looked like a ghost town. The college just had its first widespread floor quarantine announced. A trace of COVID-19 was found in the wastewater system from four major residential buildings, including Ward, Haffey, Murray, Dorsey. All students living in these residential buildings were asked to take a saliva test. The results could lead to a quarantine.

Throughout the week St. John Fisher tested students living in these dorms. Taylor Stamp ‘24 expressed concern about the situation. “I was just thinking about how I would have to go home, and I didn’t want to spread it to my family.” She also feared having to choose between going home and staying in a hotel alone if she was positive.

Mrs. Barry, an English teacher at the college was asked about her fears when finding the trace of COVID_19. “I wasn’t really worried. I thought if it was bad enough they would shut down. Since I don’t live in the dorms I didn’t think I was exposed, so no I think I wasn’t as worried as someone living in the dorm would be.”

Students began receiving results about 24 hours after they had sent their sample in. Phones ringing in class became a common occurrence on Wednesday and Thursday as more people received their results. Barry had one student in her class receiving the phone call. “I thought when he first went out it didn’t occur to me when he first went out that this was for the saliva test, I thought it was something at home” she continued saying “When he came back in and was standing there, I felt so bad for him. After that the whole class just changed, the whole demeanor, for me it was like whatever I’m teaching goes out the window. I have to focus on how you were all feeling, because I don’t have to live there but you do.”

One student receiving the call felt nervous and scared knowing they would enter quarantine. “My jaw dropped and I felt reluctant to answer the phone because I was scared I may have been positive” said Michaela Meleca ‘24. The students contacted began quarantine as early as Tuesday.

All zoom classes attendance was rising because more students were in quarantine or were home based on the fear. Emma Tonkery ‘24 had to stay in her room remotely for one day and the entire weekend because her suitemates test came back positive. Tonkery ‘24 also expressed that although she only had one day learning online during quarantine, if it had to continue for a while it would be harder to learn. Another student in quarantine, Erin Falk ‘24 agreed with Emma saying “If it had to continue it would be hard to continue to focus everyday and would be difficult to learn.”

By Friday, the campus was empty. In some classes more than half were learning remotely. The dining hall had many people ordering takeout since many were afraid of taking any risk while taking their mask off to eat. Many students are asking, will this be the new normal? Will college students and professors be living in a constant fear of when our next scare of COVID is?

The school since then has a COVID-19 count on their website where you can see how many people have tested positive and how many active cases there are. There is also an email every student receives with information updates and a weekly zoom where students can go to ask questions. Every student and teacher that was interviewed agrees they hope we can stay here until Thanksgiving and hope everyone will continue to do their part to ensure we stay on campus.

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