Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the definition of quarantine has drastically evolved. What was once a word that conjured connotations of historical fiction now carries a very tangible burden that weighs on all of our minds. In the past two weeks, my personal definition of quarantine has dramatically altered as I have been isolated at the Courtyard Marriott on Lakeshore.
The weekend before last, I went home to surprise my dad on his 49th birthday. I left home to return to campus Sunday afternoon, and by Monday morning, my dad had a fever. My mom was the one who called me. No hello. No preamble. Just, “your dad tested positive for COVID-19.”
My first thought was a four letter word that is definitely not Samford-approved. Next, I thought about my dad, his age, his high blood pressure, the last hug I gave him before I drove back to campus. Third, what was I supposed to do next?
Of course I knew that Samford has a system in place with policies and regulations relating to COVID-19 exposure. I have seen meals being delivered to people quarantined in my residence hall. I have had classmates disappear from their desks for days. The evidence of students quarantining has surrounded me all semester, yet the minute I realized I would need to quarantine, I had no idea what to do.
I began exchanging emails with the COVID-19 Team. I had no fever. No cough, no body aches, no fatigue (beyond the mundane exhaustion faced by all college students) and no headaches. Nothing unusual. Unless someone experiences symptoms of COVID-19, they won’t be tested, so all I was required to do would be to quarantine for 14 days since the date of exposure, and wait to see if I developed symptoms.
I was given a choice about where to quarantine: either an empty room on campus or at a hotel down the street. I asked which option would be better for Samford. Because I had a car, I was told it would be better for me to go to the hotel and save the on-campus rooms for people with no transportation options. I threw a pile of clean clothes into a laundry basket, grabbed the thermometer Samford provided residents at move-in, and set off to check in at the Courtyard Marriott across from the Target on Lakeshore.
To preface, there have been some nice things about quarantine. The bed is very large. There’s free WiFi. The Samford University Legacy League occasionally delivers care packages with homemade cookies. I have a lovely view of the hotel pool that no one is allowed to swim in. I’ve done half a cardigan worth of knitting in my surplus of spare time. There are some good things really, but unfortunately, the good doesn’t outweigh the terrible.
I love the Caf as much as the next Bulldog, but when it’s the only thing you eat, three meals a day, and you don’t get any say in what you’re served, it can make mealtimes a little disappointing. To counteract this, I ordered a bag of Halloween candy from Target which I had delivered outside of my door. After every meal, I gorge myself on Snickers and M&M’s and then sit in a pile of wrappers and pretend that everything is fine.
Despite the physical distance separating me from campus I’ve still had to attend class, which has been excruciating. Every ounce of motivation I have has been completely stolen from me. I have more time in a day than I know what to do with, but all I want to do is watch TikTok and Netflix and do everything I can to make the time pass a little faster. My classes don’t feel real anymore.
Probably the most surprising thing about quarantine is how little I feel like a human being. I haven’t felt sunlight on my face in days. I only emerge from my nest of blankets to snatch the meals that are delivered to my doorstep before scurrying back inside my room. The only time I really look at my appearance is during Zoom lectures when I stare at myself like I’m Narcissus and my little Zoom square is my reflection. I feel separate. Isolated. Alone.
But at the same time, I’m okay. I’m actually fine. I feel weird because quarantine is weird. COVID-19 is weird. Life is weird. As soon as my 14 days are up, I’ll return to campus and jump right back into my life. Someday, the two weeks I’ve spent in this hotel room will be a blip in my memory, a wacky story to tell my future children.
As we approach the end of 2020, I want to remind everyone that COVID-19 affects us all differently, but the one thing we have in common is that it does affect all of us. Every student that leaves Samford at the end of this semester will have a unique story to tell. To my fellow students, be smart, be safe and be kind. We will get through this together.