Winter Break Quarantine Made Worse by College’s Negligence

I really thought my semester would end better this time. Until recently, life was going relatively well for me. AtGN was a great show to work on and got pretty consistent praise from those who saw it. I even got to be an opener at Solarity and felt very proud of my performance following the event. I was feeling great. Sadly, this did not last, as I tested positive for COVID-19 two days after the event. 

Faced with the need to quarantine, I ended up having to remain at Oberlin for the holidays. Luckily, I did not interact with many people following the performance.

After I received my positive test, I stayed in my dorm in Langston Hall for a day and a half. I then moved back to Lord House when my partner, College second-year Makayla Riggins, also tested positive. College third-year Nai McDonald also got stuck on campus due to a positive test, and we were the only three people on our side of the building. The holiday was okay for me, but only because I had someone to cuddle with and help me get through that time. Although we made the best of this situation, the conditions here were less than ideal.

When I asked both Makayla and Nai about their initial thoughts on receiving a positive test, they were both understandably concerned. Makayla was sad and scared for their health due to their multiple diseases and being mildly immunocompromised. Nai was worried over both him and his mother being sick with COVID-19 and without each other for the break. 

When asked to describe their time here during winter break in one word or phrase, neither Makayla nor Nai had good things to say. Nai stated that this time was “lonely” and that the holiday here was a “wack-ass Christmas for real.” Makayla, similarly, described their time here as “depressing.” Makayla also said that while they were stuck at Oberlin they “felt like a goddamn dog at an animal shelter.”

Each of them also had great suggestions for measures the school should have taken to make this quarantine easier. Makayla suggested that Oberlin could have fed us better, “or at least give us more information about food, when we can eat, and options instead of just leaving random things at our door.” Both advocated for better communication from the College during this time as well. Nai noted that he and Makayla did not receive a big pack of water or a meal schedule as I did during my first day of quarantine in Langston. They were both concerned about not having medicine provided by Oberlin to address coughing symptoms as well. 

When I asked them if either recalled decent measures taken by Oberlin during the break, both Nai and Makayla said they did not. Nai said he “wouldn’t wish COVID on his worst enemy.” In a similar vein, Makayla said, “It seems like they did the bare minimum to keep us alive, and at some points, I don’t think they did that.” I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly, and I am incredibly disappointed — yet not surprised — by this treatment. 

While I admittedly knew the risks associated with attending Solarity, I still feel that Oberlin was negligent by not consistently reporting cases in ObieSafe emails in the weeks before the event. The College also could have required a negative PCR test for guest attendees to help lessen the risk. Merely sending out a series of emails saying that we’re all in this together and need to be diligent was less than adequate. I understand that the conditions of this public health crisis and case numbers change every day, but we’ve been in the pandemic for two years now. Oberlin can and should be doing better by this point because the grace period they had when the first wave of COVID-19 hit no longer applies. All three of us have recovered smoothly enough, but regardless, I hope Oberlin does better if similar outbreaks on campus happen in the future.