The Omicron variant has caused surges in COVID-19 cases throughout the world, and Carleton is no exception. Since students returned from winter break, the rate of positive tests for Carleton students, faculty, staff, and regular contractors has reached 6.88%—a jump from the positivity rate in the fall, which remained under 0.5% throughout the term. This spike in cases has prompted Carleton to make use of new isolation spaces on and off campus to mitigate further spread.
Students without roommates or with roommates who also have COVID-19 are being told to quarantine in their rooms. When that happens, the college will close off a bathroom on the floor to be used only by those who are COVID-19 positive, and deliver their food in Green2Go containers. Otherwise, Carleton will find them a room on campus or at the Fairfield Inn and Suites. Some students who live nearby have also been able to isolate in their homes.
After a student tests positive for COVID-19, they first receive a call from CICT (Case Investigation and Contact Tracing) and later instructions from the Q/I (Quarantine and Isolation) team about moving into isolation housing. Alex Widman ‘23 had to wait a few hours between receiving the initial call from CICT and moving into a room at the Fairfield Inn. She described the process as “frustrating” but under- stood that Carleton was overwhelmed with cases.
Another student, who wishes to remain anonymous, called security the night he received his positive result because he didn’t want to sleep in the same room as his roommate. He was instructed to remain in his room and move to the hotel the next afternoon.
Student isolation experiences vary greatly based on quarantine location. Both Widman and the anonymous student noted that the hotel rooms are nice, especially compared to rooms on campus, and each have their own bathroom. Maya Wolff ‘24, who quarantined in Rogers House on campus, shared one bathroom with the rest of the house.
“Isolation is not awful once I adjusted but it was kind of a tough transition just having to be so reliant on Carleton to provide all the stuff,” Wolff said.
When she first arrived to the room, she didn’t have a desk to do schoolwork and had to send an email to receive one. Once another student began sharing her room, they were low on desks again.
Kari Scheurer, a senior administrative assistant in the Dean of Students Office, serves as the Q/I Coordinator. She oversees the move-in process for isolation housing, brings students meals and essen- tial items and facilitates communication with SHAC and class deans.
Every day, students receive a bag with snacks and three Green2Go containers full of food. Widman mentioned that staff would also bring special treats like Starbucks drinks or fresh fruit to give them something to look forward to. One student noted that the Q/I team seems understaffed. He once saw a staff member bring her son to help distribute food.
“We work long hours. However, the work is quite rewarding, and students have been very fun to work with in a different way than our usual campus works,” Scheurer said. “In some ways, it is better that we are a smaller team because we can get to know the student’s likes and needs. With a larger team, I would worry we would just be completing errands and tasks and skip that personal touch. I enjoy seeing students occasionally when dropping things off, and it is nice to know them by name and not just a room number.”
Widman, Wolff and Scheurer all had advice for students who have to isolate in the future.
“Keeping up with school work is a little bit difficult just because the time is really amorphous. There are no checkpoints within the day, so it’s really hard to be productive and realize that you have to get stuff done,” Widman said.
She suggested that students should get up early, take walks outside and bring activities to pass the time and break up the day. Wolff recommended packing sheets and blankets, a water bottle and an extension cord.
“Although we try to think of what a student may need in isolation, we don’t always know. If you are in isolation, you need something or have a question, please reach out,” Scheurer said.