On April 14, 11 students tested positive for COVID-19 and were quarantined. They joined seven students who were already in quarantine for testing positive, and 26 close contacts, including myself. This led to the suspension of many college operations, including in-person classes, any group gatherings and sit-down dining.
I and other students had to quarantine for 14 days in Sigma, or off-campus. Here, many of us experienced feeling abandoned by the school, with inconsistent food delivery, lack of upkeep in the rooms, little to no enforcement of quarantine policies, as well as unclear instructions of how to order food.
During the first week of quarantine, I ate five total meals and had to supplement those meals with granola bars, apples and popcorn. There was a specific day where I ordered a full breakfast and asked for hot sauce in the bag with the food. This must have led to some confusion because when I opened the bag, all I had was a diet coke, and two packets of hot sauce.
Sophomore Rachael Flynn tested positive in an off-campus test after being a close contact with another student who tested positive. Flynn described self-reporting at 11 a.m, and not having any contact with the school until 3 p.m..
“They only called me because I was a close contact,” Flynn said. “They didn’t even know I tested positive until I told them I had self reported.”
This was the case for multiple students who tested positive and self-reported. I was tested and self reported around 11 a.m. on April 11 as well, and I had to call Eckerd’s health center in order to figure out what my next steps were. Eventually, all students affected by the surge in cases were in quarantine, except for sophomore Macey Woodlock, who was taken to the hospital after going to Eckerd’s health center when she was having trouble breathing.
She was diagnosed with COVID-19 induced pneumonia, and had to spend the night in the hospital before being released and sent to quarantine. Woodlock described her difficulties with daily life in quarantine, including being too sick to get out of bed and walk around. Despite her difficulties with pneumonia, she spoke about feeling “abandoned” by the school.
“No one ever contacted me past the first day, or even came by to check on any of us,” Woodlock said. “We were just on our own.”
This was a common theme with quarantine. Throughout my stay, I only saw one campus security officer, and the occasional maintenance worker. Sophomore Ian Reed was also quarantined during this time, and agrees with this.
“There was no enforcement of rules,” Reed said. “Anyone can go and do anything, and I know a lot of people who did. People came and went as they pleased. No one checked if you were social distancing. No one even checked if you were in quarantine. You could’ve just been in your normal dorm and no one would have known.”
Another common gripe amongst quarantine students was the lack of upkeep in the rooms.
“My microwave didn’t have the glass plate in it. My roommate’s girlfriend’s refrigerator door would fall off when she tried to open or close it. The rooms were dirty and just not taken care of,” Reed said.
Reed also discussed problems with the food services. In order to get meals, a student would have to look at the daily menu for the cafe, and then order their food from a separate website. These meals were then delivered to students, who were notified once the meals were in a room for them to pick the food up. Unfortunately, there were many problems with this, beginning with unclear instructions on how to order.
“Nobody gave me any information on how to order food. I had to get the website from my roommate, and once I ordered the food, it brought on more problems. Meals were often late or cold, and that’s if they even came,” Reed said.
When asked about these concerns, Amy Apicerno, head of the COVID Care Team, said that students are assigned a case manager as soon as they enter quarantine who is supposed to meet with them and go over things like how to order food. Apicerno said this information is also on posters in each of the rooms along with a link to Bon Appetit’s website.
“If students encounter an issue, they are encouraged to contact their case manager, who will contact Bon Appetit right away.” Apicerno said. “They always respond very quickly because the head chef and the manager on duty are on the list of people we contact.”
For cleaning, each student is responsible for keeping their own room tidy throughout the quarantine period. Everyone is provided with cleaning supplies in their rooms upon arrival. After the room is clear, employees from Emerald Facility Management professionally disinfect the rooms before Eckerd’s regular maintenance staff from Sodexo restocks the rooms with toilet paper, garbage bags and other necessities.
Eckerd has done a lot to ensure the safety of students during these uncertain times, and has been able to maintain a secure environment, while also allowing students to have their desired college experience. While they have a comprehensive plan for students who test positive and close contacts, the actual quarantining processes and conditions demonstrate lazy preparation as a whole, along with a general disregard for the rules that were put in place.