How Reed College is Handling COVID from the Perspective of someone in Isolation

Graphic by Mychal Miller

Throughout the ongoing pandemic, Reed College has handled COVID cases among students and faculty with grace. Since the surge of the new Omicron variant, we’ve all had to change our routines to adapt to our new normal. Some classes were online for the first week of school, and Paideia was only open to current students. In some cases, individuals who test positive must be quarantined in COVID isolation housing for 10 days, attending classes virtually and getting meals delivered to them. 

As someone who recently tested positive for COVID and had no idea what the next steps were, I wanted to give an inside perspective on my experience in isolation housing, and all that came with it. What to expect, and what to know before going in. 

Although those with single dorms are permitted to quarantine in their own rooms, if you live on campus and have a roommate you will be given a two-hour window after being alerted of your COVID-positive status to collect your things and move into COVID isolation housing. These dorms are at the edge of campus and do a good job of keeping you isolated from the rest of the college community. A packing list will include things like; 3-4 changes of comfortable clothes (laundry machines and detergent are available), and other things you would assume to need during your 10-day stay, toiletries, face coverings, key card, wallet, etc. 

You will be emailed a Guide to Isolation and Quarantine Housing and assigned an “AC” on call, who is there to answer all your COVID-housing-related questions. This has been especially helpful during my stay, as I have used these resources when random questions that I could not answer myself have arisen.  

You might be told that your stay will be as short as five days if you are no longer exhibiting symptoms after those five days. But do not get your hopes up because, as in my case, you may be held for ten days for the sake of thoroughness.

Unfortunately, some classes are not equipped to handle a hybrid classroom with both in-person and virtual instruction. In my case, two of my classes are not hybrid, which means I have had to miss a total of six classes combined. Although the lack of online instruction is sometimes unavoidable, I believe all classes need to have an option to join virtually to avoid unnecessary, excessive absences. 

Photo by Anshu Kotha

The main issue arises with meals. Since COVID-positive individuals cannot go to Commons to get their food, a delivery service has been put in place. In order to relieve the busy schedule of Commons delivery people, ordering has been limited to early times. Breakfast must be ordered by 8:30 am, lunch by 12 pm, and dinner by 5:30 pm. This is less than ideal if your schedule leads to you missing any of these delivery times. What’s more, in my own housing facility countless delivery bags have piled up around the trash cans in the kitchen, as no one is there to take out the trash. 

Since COVID and isolation is something Reed College has never dealt with before in the large numbers the school is currently experiencing, it is understandable that some kinks need to be worked out before everything can run smoothly. As with all things, I believe that a bit more time — complete with some trial and error — needs to run its course before this system is perfected.

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