Too Close for Comfort: Inside Quarantine

 Too Close for Comfort: Inside Quarantine

Student Life created an infographic to help understand criteria students must meet to discontinue quarantine or isolation.

by Kelsey Wynn | Editor in Chief

SCRANTON – The University of Scranton issued quarantines to a number of off-campus student houses last week after residents tested positive for the coronavirus.

Two entire houses, one on Clay Avenue and another North Webster Avenue, are under quarantine despite only one individual from each house testing positive for COVID-19. As of Sept. 2, the University reported 39 positive student cases, 42 students in isolation and 50 students in quarantine.

Robert W. Davis Jr., Ed.D., vice president for Student Life, said the University is continuing SARS-CoV-2 screening tests on campus.

According to a statement from Stan Zygmunt, director of news and media relations, these tests do not extend to those who have been issued a quarantine notice as a person in quarantine cannot shorten their time in quarantine.

Off-campus students discuss what quarantine life has been like for them, after a housemate tested positive for COVID-19.

While these statements are in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, students like Matt Pinto, Clay Avenue, are worried about what quarantining without the option to be tested might mean for him.

“Health Services said, ‘Well, you could be negative today and positive tomorrow, so it’s kind of a waste of a test since you have to be quarantined until September 6 anyway,’” Pinto said. “But what if I want to know? I have a history of asthma, so I think I should know if I’m positive or not.”

Molly Skinner, North Webster Avenue, also expressed concerns about her inability to get tested on campus.

“We wanted to get tested because we wanted to be able to tell people that we’ve been in contact with,” Skinner said.

The University issued a Health and Safety update on Aug. 31 that said quarantine restricts movement of individuals who have been in close contact with someone who recently tested positive for the virus. While the update described close contact as being closer than six feet for longer than 15 minutes to someone who has tested positive, individuals in quarantine are not assumed positive cases, according to Zygmunt.

Emily Foster, North Webster Avenue, said her housemate does not know where or how she became infected with the virus, but now the entire house feels like they are assumed positive, even without a test.

“When [the University] called [our housemate], they said that all of us should quarantine for two weeks and act as if all five of us are positive,” Foster said.

Pinto said he felt the University was also assuming too many people have it and including too little of those in the weekly reports.

“The Health and Safety email said that 50 people are quarantined, but we know more than 50 kids just on Clay quarantined,” Pinto said.

Between Aug. 24 and Aug. 31, the University reported 41 students meeting criteria to discontinue quarantine or isolation. Student Life created an infographic to help understand this criteria.

“Information provided reflects activity within a given week. Because the general timeframe for isolation (10 days) and quarantine (14 days) overlaps with weekly reporting, numbers between weeks will differ,” the email from Health and Safety said.

Maggie Westerman, North Webster Avenue, and Vince Genova, Clay Avenue, said being quarantined off campus has made it difficult to access the meal plan they pay for on campus.

“We can’t go anywhere on campus to get food, so it’s kind of messed up,” Genova said. “We pay for meal plans, so they should’ve had a delivery service or something. Just make sure all the people are fed.”

Westerman explained that quarantine does not feel unsafe, but it has left her entire house feeling confused and lonely.

“I’m trying to remind myself that there’s no guidebook for this,” Westerman said. “Everyone that’s doing this is having to deal with doing this for the first time. I’m trying to give people the benefit of the doubt and be understanding, but it gets kind of frustrating sometimes when you’re kind of feeling, like, isolated – because you are. You just kind of feel disconnected.”

Reminders from The University’s Pandemic Safety Officer, Elizabeth M. Garcia, Esq.

  • In classrooms, each student must wipe down the surface area in front of them before and after they sit down in class.
  • Instructors must wipe down surface areas in front of them before and after class (computer, podium, front table, etc.), and remind students to wipe their areas.
  • Instructors must wear their mask when teaching.
  • Wipes should only be used once to clean. Please do not reuse wipes.
  • Students must wear their masks on campus, even if they are sitting alone in a study room.
  • Masks must be worn when sitting outside with colleagues that are not living within the same household, residence room or quad.

Members of the North Webster Avenue household said they did everything right to protect themselves and their house from the virus, and are still in quarantine.

“Our house has been really careful about everything, so honestly it can happen to anyone,” Foster said. 

Health and Safety will send its next update on Sept. 7. For more information on testing and campus guidelines, contact Student Health Services at (570) 941-7667.