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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

How Carleton should deal with COVID-19 on campus

As Winter Term drags on, many students have been coming down sick. Whether it be COVID-19, the flu or a common cold, at least half of the people I know have been under the weather in the past couple of weeks. So what’s been going on? And what is Carleton doing about it?

Obviously winter (even a sad, snowless version of it) brings illness. After the advent of COVID-19, we have more reason to worry about this — especially on a college campus where living in close quarters and mingling with the community from class to class is commonplace.

This past Fall Term, Carleton offered a vaccination clinic for flu and COVID-19 shots during October and November out of Severance Hall. I decided to go and knock out both my COVID-19 and flu vaccinations (and meet the volunteers who were administering them). It was a very quick and efficient experience. Most people experience some aftereffects of vaccinations, particularly the COVID-19 vaccination, and I was certainly one of them. After getting my two immunizations, I was out of commission with some nasty symptoms for the next 24 hours, but I’d say it was worth it in the long run.

Considering how many students are sick right now, I was bound to catch something as well — and I did. On the Monday of fifth week, right when all my classes were ramping up for midterms, I started experiencing symptoms of the “Carleton plague.” At first, I was just sneezing a lot, but as the afternoon went on I started feeling light-headed and nauseous. I decided to try a COVID-19 test, just to be sure.

The first test I used (borrowed from my roommate) turned out inconclusive, and when I checked the box, it had expired in April of 2022. Living in Goodhue, I walked downstairs to the superlounge, but there were no COVID-19 tests in the vending machines — nor any in the machines at the Rec. Eventually, I walked to Myers, still feeling faint and beginning to lose confidence that it was just a common cold. The vending machines in Myers ended up having one COVID-19 test left, which I used — this one was also expired, but turned out to be positive. A friend of mine brought me a few more tests from the campus security office, as well as the information that expired tests are (apparently) still valid to use. After testing positive for a second time, I had to make plans for the rest of my week.

This term, Carleton’s Residential Life office is not involved in isolation housing or COVID-19 policy at all. Upon testing positive, I messaged my RAs — it turns out isolating in your room is the only option. If you’re wondering what your roommate should do, the answer is not much: they can either continue to stay in the room and risk getting infected, or find somewhere else to sleep.

My roommate didn’t have anywhere to stay on such short notice, and didn’t want to risk getting anyone else sick by transmitting COVID-19, so we made a plan: I would stay in the room 24/7, keeping the window open and wearing a mask whenever they were present. My roommate would try not to spend too much time around me in an attempt to avoid becoming ill. This presented a couple of problems — in addition to essentially forcing my roommate to evacuate the vast majority of the day, keeping the window open in 30-degree weather and sleeping wearing a mask were very difficult to manage.

I am very glad that I got both my vaccinations way back in October because my symptoms only lasted for about 36 hours. By Wednesday morning I felt completely normal, and by Thursday night I had tested negative again. On Friday I was able to go back to attending classes and going to the dining halls, just while wearing a mask. While it was definitely tricky to immediately take on midterms after my recovery, I’m glad that I didn’t miss too much.

While my experience having COVID-19 on campus wasn’t too difficult, it did come with a few tough moments, particularly concerning the dorm living situation. I’m sure that other people on campus who have gotten sick — whether it be COVID-19, the flu or anything else — have also had to deal with similar issues, and the lack of help from the Carleton administration and residential life office has exacerbated these problems.

COVID-19 isn’t as much of a threat as it was just a few years ago, but we should still have access to better resources — vending machines that are more consistently stocked with tests, treatment options with SHAC (i.e. Paxlovid) and better alternatives for living with a roommate while sick.

In the last few weeks of Winter Term, I hope that the policies around illness on campus see some improvement, that infected students follow the guidelines to keep others safe and that anybody who hasn’t gotten sick yet stays that way!

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