Opinion: I Was Exposed to COVID-19

What happened following a coronavirus exposure on campus

On November 4, I received an email from Madison Riethman, the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, asking me to call her regarding “an important public health matter.” I called her when I finished classes, and she informed me I was exposed to COVID-19 and must quarantine for two weeks.

The previous day, I had attended my one in person class, an indoor class of about 15 people taught in Psych 105. Later that day, one of my classmates tested positive. While it was considered a low risk exposure because everyone was wearing masks and maintained appropriate distance, everybody in the class was formally exposed to COVID. As we all had to quarantine, the professor moved the class exclusively online. 

In my initial phone call with Riethman, she explained how I was exposed, how I should quarantine, and how I would be tested. Because I live alone off campus, quarantining was relatively simple: I just had to stay in my apartment by myself. I could not be on campus or see other Reedies in person until my quarantine was lifted. Riethman offered to contact professors to excuse absences from in person classes, but as my one in person class was moved online, I was able to attend all my classes. I also had to fill out the Daily Health Check survey everyday (even though I wasn’t visiting campus) to monitor any symptoms that might arise.

The testing tent in the HCC parking lot. Photo by Katherine Draves.

The testing tent in the HCC parking lot. Photo by Katherine Draves.

A few hours after my call with Riethman, I spoke to a staff member at the HCC to schedule a COVID test. Unlike the surveillance tests, a test following exposure is a nose swab performed at the HCC. The test had to be a week after the exposure to ensure that if I had contracted the virus, it would appear on the test. We also reviewed the same quarantine instructions Riethman had provided.

On November 6, I was contacted by a contact tracer from the Multnomah County government. He asked if I was experiencing symptoms (I was not) and then went over quarantine instructions once again. He also informed me that I would have to fill out a daily symptom survey through the Oregon Health Authority, very similar to Reed’s Daily Health Check. 

I received my COVID test on November 10, one week after I was exposed. At the HCC, tests are conducted in a small tent in the parking lot. Arriving on time, I checked in through the Health Portal, and then I sat outside while I waited for about 15 minutes. Once the nurse arrived, the test took less than five minutes. She confirmed my name and birthdate and opened the testing kit; I swab the inside of my nose and dropped it in a tube. Four days later, on November 13, my results came back negative. 

I was released from quarantine on November 17, following a phone call with the HCC. I confirmed that I hadn’t developed any symptoms and was medically cleared to return to campus. Quarantining was boring and lonely. I basically spent two weeks just sitting on my couch alone. I felt disconnected from Reed, from my peers, and from my friends. But by staying home, I was protecting my community, taking care of my fellow Reedies. Please stay safe by staying home.

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