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A student’s weekend in quarantine

When Longwood student Emily Griffin was talking to a doctor via a telehealth call Friday afternoon, Sept. 11, she didn’t anticipate 20 minutes later she’d be scrambling to pack her bags and head over to the University Health Center to be transported via van to the Arc dorms for quarantining.

Emily Griffin

Griffin, 19, is a sophomore at Longwood. Originally from Fredericksburg, she studies social work at the university and is a member of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

After getting a tooth pulled last week, subsequent sinus issues brought on unpleasant cold symptoms that had Griffin concerned about attending class. After speaking with a professor, Griffin arranged a telehealth interview with a doctor at the University Health Center for approximately 3 p.m. Friday.

After explaining her symptoms, she was instructed to take the next 20 minutes to gather her necessities and prepare for a long weekend ahead.

“It was extremely unexpected,” Griffin explained as she recalled the event. She didn’t know how long the quarantine would be, and she struggled to quickly gather her things without much knowledge of what she would need over the coming days.

Griffin, who lives in a suite-style school apartment at the Longwood Landings, said she was not initially advised regarding what to tell her roommates. Visibly upset and carrying several bags as she made her way out of her room, she was approached by a roommate who asked what was wrong. It was difficult to explain where she was headed.

With a lot of unknowns hanging in the air, Griffin made her way to the back of the University Health Building. She said after being tested for strep, the flu and COVID-19, she was then transported in a black van to the Arc dorms on Griffin Boulevard where Longwood houses some students quarantining/isolating after a coronavirus test.

According to Griffin, after arriving at the Arc, she was given instructions regarding how the process would work, including a phone number to the front desk should she need something. She was told her results would likely be returned Sunday or Monday.

“That was basically it, and I was pretty much left on my own after that,” she said. 

Griffin took in her surroundings. She had her own room with a private bathroom containing some towels. Her bed had two pillows, a sheet and a blanket. The space included a miniature fridge to store food, but there was no microwave, so she had to scrap the idea of heating up some snacks as one method to pass the time.

Thus began a rough first night.

It was all a bit of a whirlwind. As she grappled with the newfound concerns of her coronavirus test result and her sudden change in living space, she called and notified her family.

“I cried a few times, I couldn’t really sleep that well, it was just very difficult not knowing,” she recalled.

Unable to focus much on her schoolwork, the following days were ones of solitude and self-care.

According to Griffin, meals prepared by the dining hall were delivered twice daily. At lunchtime, a worker would knock at Griffin’s door and announce lunch was ready. Opening the door would reveal a plate of food inside a plastic bag sitting on a desk, which she would take back into her room to eat. Dinner would be delivered in the evening, along with the next morning’s breakfast as well, which normally consisted of fruit or a granola bar. She added she could not pick what meals she received.

For Griffin, the isolation from others was perhaps the hardest part of the ordeal.

“I was very overwhelmed. I felt very secluded and closed off from pretty much everything, and I have a bad anxiety disorder to begin with, so it was even more difficult being in a space by myself alone with my own thoughts the entire time.”

While she understood quarantine was a necessary precaution, Griffin was disappointed she didn’t receive any regular visits or phone calls from health center or university staff, especially as someone displaying symptoms of an illness. She said her only interaction over the weekend occurred when a health official came by one day to ask how she was doing mentally.

Luckily, she began to feel better as the days went on, and at approximately 8:30 a.m. Monday morning, Sept. 14, she received a call letting her know her test had come back negative and she could leave the Arc.

It was confusing to be told to just walk out the door after the process required to get into the building, but Griffin called a friend for a ride back to her dorm and assistance transporting her belongings. She attended her 9:55 a.m. class via Zoom in order to give herself some time to decompress, but by late morning Griffin was back in her 11 a.m. class and getting right back in the swing of the semester.

Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 16, Griffin said she had not received any sort of follow-up questions or additional contact from the university.

While she’s already one to follow mitigation guidelines, she said the experience has definitely made her even more health conscious and has created an even bigger inspiration to do her part in preventing spread of the virus.

She added she hopes the university will consider making attempts in the future to follow up each day with quarantining students about their physical and mental wellbeing and any change in symptoms, be it a phone call, a paper questionnaire slid under the door or by other means, which would alleviate some of the stress of being alone during such a frightening time.

She also hopes the university may give future students in quarantine the option to choose from a small list of meals.

Griffin added she would have also liked to have seen the university offer widespread COVID-19 testing as a preventative measure as students were returning to campus.

“I feel like that would have been very essential for them to do,” she said. “I feel like it would have alleviated a lot of concerns and anxiety from students and staff, and I also just feel like it would have prevented some of the newer cases that we were receiving pretty much within the first or second week of school.”

Griffin also said that before returning for her sophomore year, she did not anticipate Longwood’s in-person classes would last as long as they have, believing the university would have to transition to remote learning within the first couple of weeks.

She did have some words of advice if other students find themselves in a similar situation.

“Do your best to stay calm and positive. It’s very easy to get upset and overwhelmed when you’re in an environment all by yourself and you can’t see anybody in person. Just remember that you’re not alone and ultimately if you need help they’re there to help you. If you call I’m pretty sure they would be right there to assist you with anything, so just keep that in mind. Try to make the most of it.”