Here’s what to know about quarantine housing

The word “quarantine” has always possessed a powerful connotation, something that stands testament to itself in today’s reality. When Hope College students hesitantly prepped for this semester, many considered the worst case scenario and wondered what would happen if they or someone they were in contact with contracted COVID-19. Students knew that Hope had prepared for just these concerns, but few knew how quarantine housing would manifest itself on campus. 

“I had seen pictures, videos and TikToks from my friends from other schools, where quarantine literally looks like jail,” said Claire Dwyer (’24), one of the first members of the Anchor staff to be put in quarantine housing. “And I was genuinely so scared to go into quarantine. So when I did, it was like, ‘oh, I have to face my worst fear.’’’ As a freshman, Dwyer was extremely nervous about the possibility of being put in quarantine while on campus, something that no other student class has had to deal with before. Naturally, when she discovered that someone who had visited her had tested positive, her thoughts were pessimistic. However, her nine-day stay at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center turned out to be a pleasant surprise. “Hope really connected me with some good people,” she explained. “My Hope Health Advocate was great. She really calmed me down, walked me through the process and assured me that everything was going to be okay.” Every student who gets put in quarantine housing is assigned a Hope Health Advocate (HHA), and Dwyer had a zoom call with hers on the first day at Haworth. HHAs are there primarily to offer support, whether that’s to answer questions, handle administrative issues or even deliver packages students receive from Mail Services. “Mine is helping me to print out and take a test for Friday,” laughed Claire Buck (’22), one of the Anchor’s Editors-in-Chief who is still in quarantine after her housemate tested positive the week of October 5.

Despite the situation, both Dwyer and Buck entered quarantine with a game plan and a positive attitude. Armed with a yoga mat, Dwyer was determined to adhere to a schedule and resist the ennui inherent in a room one is stuck in for days on end. She didn’t leave her room, even though students are allowed to go on walks as long as they are accompanied by a Haworth staff member. Buck, while only needing to spend two nights of her quarantine in Haworth, was nonetheless prepared: “I found this livestream of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They put a screen on one of their big tanks with manta rays and dolphins and fish. I just put that on in the background and would watch it as I did my homework; really, those manta rays helped me through.”

When students are put into a room in the Haworth, they are delivered three meals a day, usually from Cook Dining Hall. All the TVs also come with Netflix and cable, free for use. The students’ HHAs or someone from the Health Center reach out to all their professors, who in turn reach out to the students to make the change as smooth as possible. And if professors were not being very responsive, HHAs could also intervene on the student’s behalf. “Hope really did take care of us,” Dwyer said. “Not that I want to go back there or anything, but now I know if I do it’s not the end of the world. Hope really does make an effort to make it a good experience.” 

One of the hardest aspects of quarantine, it seems, is what students miss. For Dwyer, this was especially difficult, as her quarantine experience occurred in those pivotal early weeks of the semester, when she and other freshmen were having a complicated enough time socializing and making friends. Dwyer noted that she spent much of her time calling friends and family and would have “Netflix parties” with her friends to combat the isolation. Buck’s quarantine came just as The Anchor was putting together its monthly print edition, something which further added to the stress. “That was another thing I realized, right when my housemate tested positive, was ‘oh no, we have a print deadline, and I was going to be there just about all day, like I usually am.’ I wished I could have been there to help. It was hard to not be right alongside my staff, especially since we’re not doing that many print editions this semester.” Buck spent her time, besides watching manta rays, calling her similarly quarantined housemates and gazing out the window. 

Buck moved back into her apartment on October 7 to finish out her quarantine period. “It’s a privilege to be able to quarantine in my own space,” she expressed. “I have a lot of sympathy for the people who get stuck [at Haworth] for a long time.” In her apartment above Hops, it’s easier to take her allotted time outside and not feel like she is sneaking out. And an apartment is a lot more space than a single room. For Buck, who loves to cook, she enjoys having a kitchen again. However, the possibility of her test being a false negative weighs on her mind. Dwyer has been out for several weeks now, feeling a new sense of freedom and perspective after she’d lugged all her stuff from Haworth back to Dykstra. “You definitely appreciate on-campus life more, and it’s a good lesson in gratitude,” she said. Her tip for students about to go into quarantine housing is to stay connected to friends and to bring a yoga mat. Buck echoed a similar suggestion and said that students should be intentional in reaching out, whether it’s to their HHA, to professors for academic assistance—“homework does not really stop for a tiny personal crisis”—or to family and peers for support and love. She also, after baking cookies for students stuck in Haworth, affirmed that performing kind acts for others “is a good antidote for the anxiety of quarantine.” 

These are untraversed times, for the world as well as this campus, but it is good to see that the Hope attitude remains undaunted by the challenges at hand. To students afraid of quarantine or isolation housing: don’t be afraid. Arm yourself with your weapons of choice, whether those are yoga, manta rays or friends who will bring you rutabaga from the farmers market, and keep the hope. Also, maybe bake cookies; it’s a stellar coping mechanism. 

Zach Dankert ('21) is one of the Campus Co-Editors at the Anchor.

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