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Monday, Dec 11, 2023

Covid-19 positive students adjust to evolving guidelines

Some students who test positive are relocated to designated isolation housing, such as the house pictured. (Courtesy of Mia Zottola)
Some students who test positive are relocated to designated isolation housing, such as the house pictured. (Courtesy of Mia Zottola)

The college shortened the required isolation period from 10 to five days on Jan. 14 after nearly 100 students tested positive within the first week of J-Term. The new policy is in line with Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, and allowed students to shift their quarantine plans after the announcement. 

Liza Toll ’24 had not yet received her pre-arrival test results when she arrived on campus. She was in room quarantine when both her arrival and pre-arrival tests came back positive.

“It was a really scary moment to get a positive test because I don’t know where I got it, and I wasn’t expecting it,” Toll said. 

Toll received an email from Health Services that said “students who are able to isolate off-campus are required to do so,” due to the limited isolation housing options available on campus. Since Toll both has a car on campus and lives within driving distance, she left to isolate at home. 

However, Toll returned to campus five days earlier than she had initially planned, following the announcement of the shortened isolation period. She was relieved to be back on campus, but remained concerned about exposing other students to the virus.

“I was really nervous about exposing people around me because I did have mild symptoms, and I was worried about being contagious,” Toll said. “It felt like the burden was very much on me to make responsible choices, and I tried to do that, but also, not everyone would necessarily do that. So it is a little concerning to me that people are potentially out and about after five days and maybe still exposing other people.” 

The change to a five-day quarantine was frustrating for others who were required to complete the full 10 days before the college announced the switch. 

Josie Bourne ’21.5 tested positive at home on Jan. 4, followed the five-day CDC isolation guidelines, and continued to wear a mask around her family and others for five days after. 

“I had hoped to be able to return for all of J-Term, as I graduate this February, but the school insisted I complete a full 10-day quarantine as they had not acquired enough tests to supply everyone,” Bourne said. “They informed me eventually that regardless of how I tested on a rapid at-home, I would need to finish out 10 days and arrive on campus on Day 11, which ended up being the first Saturday of J-Term.”

Bourne said she was fortunate to be able to do independent study work from home but was upset to miss one of her last weeks on campus. 

As a varsity swimmer, Mia Zottola ’24 arrived on campus early for training but tested positive in late December after her arrival. She was moved into isolation housing, but her teammates had to provide her with food for a few days. 

“The team did a good job taking care of me, like giving me food and keeping me occupied, but the school didn’t do a lot until Jan. 4,” Zottola said.  

Despite these frustrations, many students attribute delays in communications to the high volume of cases and understaffing. 

“It definitely was frustrating trying to get in touch and actually communicate with Health Services, which I’m sure was just because they are so overwhelmed and don’t have enough people to deal with the number of cases they had,” Toll said.  

Bourne agreed that communication was difficult during isolation. 

“It was frustrating communicating with the school, but I also understand it was a pretty chaotic transition — and they still managed to provide many avenues I could reach out to in order to seek information,” she said. “My final take is just that to have the rules change the way they did after the fact was kind of painful — I lost a full week of my last month here as a result of unfortunate timing.”

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Charlie Keohane

Charlie Keohane ’24 (she/her) is an Editor at Large. She previously served as the SGA Correspondent and a Senior Writer.   

She is an environmental writing major and a psychology minor from Northern California. Outside of academics, Charlie is a Senior Admissions Fellow at the Middlebury Admissions Office. She also is involved with the women’s track team and hosts Witching Hour, a radio show on 91.1 WRMC. In Spring 2023, she studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, watching Greta Gerwig movies, polar plunging, sending snail mail, and FaceTiming her rescue dog, Poppy.