By Victoria Gladstone
Students who test positive for Covid-19 and decide to isolate in on-campus housing may be assigned another Covid-19 positive roommate during their stay due to a lack of space on campus.
Sophomore world languages and linguistics major Arianna Harley, who tested positive for Covid-19 on Sept. 2, was one of the few students who was given a roommate during her isolation period.
“After I moved in, I got an email and they were just saying that isolation spaces were low so there was a possibility that I could get a roommate,” Harley said. “So I was aware of the possibility, but I honestly did not think it would happen to me.”
Harley was alone for the first few days of her isolation period when her symptoms were at their worst.
“Those first few nights I was up all night just coughing,” Harley said. “So I know that probably would have disrupted [my roommate’s] sleep, and I do not know if it would have caused a problem. It felt like swallowing hot glass.”
Harley had received a phone call a few hours before her new roommate’s arrival but the caller did not specify who it was going to be. It was on the third day of her five day isolation period in New Residence Hall.
The College’s Residential Guide for Student Isolation covers what students should expect and do in the event of testing positive for Covid-19, along with a disclaimer about isolation housing.
“Our isolation spaces are in double rooms with a private bathroom. For the most part, students will be in the room alone during isolation, but that may change if their roommate also moves to isolation or if we are short on isolation spaces,” wrote the College’s isolation policy.
Isolation housing is limited to the student dormitory, New Residence Hall, which currently has students living there during the semester.
Jared Williams, a sophomore political science major, is another resident of New Residence Hall who has shared with the Signal his opinions on the current Covid-19 isolation policy.
At first, Williams felt “uneasy” living in the same building as Covid-19 positive students but has since changed his mind.
“After speaking with my advisors in Student Government and hearing why [the College’s] staff made the decision they did, I was relieved,” Williams said. “Seeing as anyone Covid-19 positive in New Residence is wholly isolated from the rest of the community, students would not ever come in contact with them, meaning there is very little to no chance of being exposed.”
Although he has not seen anyone with Covid-19 isolating in his building, Williams is aware that students have had to isolate themselves together when testing positive for Covid-19. When he heard about this he reached out to the College’s staff to learn more about the situation.
“They said that this protocol does follow health and safety guidelines as per the NJ Department of Health,” Williams said. “I have also conducted my research and found that if two people are confirmed positive cases it is a safe practice to isolate them together if necessary.”
While this new practice for the College’s isolation policy may be different than in the past, it does not put students in harm's way.
According to the CDC, a person who tests positive with Covid-19 should be isolated for at least five days before coming in contact with another person, and even then the person should be wearing a mask.
“As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets in your home,” the CDC guidelines stt\ate. “If possible, you should use a separate bathroom. If you need to be around other people or animals in or outside of the home, wear a well-fitting mask.”
Williams said that this situation may not be ideal, but it may be necessary to accommodate what the College has to offer.
“I think two students isolating in the same dorm room should be a last resort effort, and prevented if possible,” Williams said. “Personally, I believe we should have separate housing for Covid-19 positive students, but the College does not currently have the bandwidth to provide this which is why we are seeing the instances we are now.”
When asked whether she would still choose on-campus Covid-19 isolation after her experience, Harley was ready to say she would do it again if need be.
“I do not regret it,” Harley said. “Hopefully I will not, but if I do get Covid-19 again I would go back.”