After returning from a conference in Washington, D.C., Alexa Schein* and Eckerd officials agreed to quarantine her off-campus for possible coronavirus exposure.
The brief quarantine on March 4 came after Eckerd canceled all international spring break service-learning trips and before the suspension of all school-sponsored travel deemed non-essential.
Schein, a sophomore, went to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference on Feb. 29. After going to the conference in Washington, D.C., and returning to her room in Epsilon at around 5 p.m. on March 4, she received an email from AIPAC.
The message, sent at 5:36 p.m. by AIPAC leadership, said that a group of attendees from New York were potentially in contact with a person who contracted the coronavirus.
“I was put on the list of low-risk exposure because I hadn’t met any of these people from New York. I hadn’t been at the same hotel as them. We might have been in the same room, but you know, so were 20,000 other people,” Schein said.
Rabbi Ed Rosenthal called Schein at 8:15 p.m. to tell her to contact Dean of Students James Annarelli.
“She may have been upset with me that I called, but the reality is, if there was exposure and someone got sick on a campus this small, it would have been far worse,” Rosenthal said.
In a 10:01 p.m. phone call, Annarelli told Schein that he was talking to Adam Colby, assistant vice president of operations, about how to address the issue.
When she got off the phone with Annarelli, there was a knock at her door.
“And I open the door and there’s a Campus Safety guy there with a note on a piece of paper that says Dean Annarelli with his phone number,” Schein said. “And he hands it to me from like five paces. And he’s like, ‘Here,’ and I grab it from him. I’m like, ‘I just got off the phone with him. I’m fine.’”
Colby called her at 10:48 p.m. and told Schein that she might need to be moved temporarily to a hotel. He said the decision was made based on “the CDC and local department of health issue guidance on how to evaluate risk with an individual who was potentially exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19).”
“A member of our community agreed as a precaution for the health of the community to stay off campus until College officials could get guidance,” Colby said in an email to The Current. “Based on the CDC’s guidelines, no members of the Eckerd community are required to self-quarantine at this time.”
Schein said she agreed to go. “I thought it was an unnecessary step based on the information I had, but I agreed to go anyway because at this point it was out of my hands.”
Eckerd paid for an Uber at 11:45 p.m. to take her to Magnuson Hotel Marina Cove, where she checked in alone at the front desk. She said she did not know where the car was going. Eckerd also paid for the hotel and room service. Schein video called into her classes.
"This is such a farce because you’re treating it like this, but you know I’m fine. But you’re still going through all these stupid steps that wouldn’t actually protect anyone,” Schein said.
At 5 p.m. on March 5, around 15 hours after leaving campus, she was allowed back after it was decided she posed little risk to campus health.
“I totally respect Adam Colby and Tonya and everyone who had to deal with me rant and rave, because they’re smart and they knew I was fine. They just had to handle the situation in a way that nobody was going to freak out about. Except I freaked about it,” Schein said.
Under Pandemic and Weather-Related Emergencies, the EC-Book goes into the college’s protocol for such events.
“In the event of a pandemic, weather-related emergency or other campus emergency,” The EC-Book says, “the Dean of Students or his/her designee has the authority to relocate a student on campus or to remove the student completely from campus for the sake of his/her health/safety and/or the health/safety of the Eckerd College community.”
According to the CDC website, coronaviruses are a large collection of viruses that are common in people and certain animals, like cattle and cats. The 2019 coronavirus is rare in that it can spread from animals to humans, and then human to human. Originating in Wuhan, China, there have been 423 cases of the respiratory disease and 19 deaths in the United States. In Florida, 14 people contracted the virus and two have died.
An Eckerd Alert from March 6 said that if a person has had indirect exposure to the coronavirus, precautionary measures could be recommended. The college requests self-quarantine at home for at least 14 days for anyone traveling to a country labeled as a Level 2 or 3 by the CDC.
Eckerd also requests anyone who intends to travel for spring break to fill out an online form that asks the destination and if the person is traveling by plane or cruise.
The email also said that all sponsored and pre-approved travel is suspended if it is not essential for business to continue. The suspension went into effect on March 9, but events such as Alumni Weekend and Explore Eckerd were not affected. This change came shortly after international spring break service trips were canceled.
*Alexa Schein is a reporter for The Current. Celina Ceballos contributed to reporting.