Haverford had 38 student COVID-19 cases in the Fall 2021 semester, yet they have revealed little about what happens when one tests positive. The Health Services website merely states, “The college has identified appropriate quarantine spaces and protocols in the event that a student(s) tests positive for COVID-19.” When asked to be more specific about where the college is currently housing infected students, President Wendy Raymond vaguely expressed, “I don’t know if that’s public information.”
From interviews with four students, we learned more about what happens when a student tests positive for COVID-19. The interviews reveal both similarities and inconsistencies between student experiences, which depend largely on when each interviewee tested positive and where they were housed.
The first student interviewee was Annie Bravacos ‘25, who tested positive on September 13th and was housed in both Whitehead Campus Center and at home. Bravacos’s COVID-19 experience began when she lost her sense of smell on September 12 and realized she had more than just a cold. The following day, she began self-quarantining and called Health Services, who told her to continue her daily activities despite knowing that she had lost her sense of smell. Bravacos got tested on campus later that day.
When she got her results back on September 14, her suspicions were confirmed: the test was positive. About 40 minutes after she received the result, Health Services called her and asked her to send them a list of four close contacts and to call campus security when she was ready to be brought to her isolation space. She noted in an oral interview that the process of choosing only four close contacts was difficult, especially since she is part of a team: “They only allowed four [close contacts] and I thought about it and I was like ‘these were the four that were the most susceptible and who should get tested again’ and then I tried to call Health Services back but they wouldn’t pick up…So my teammates ended up getting tested off-campus at CVS…”
Bravacos then called campus security and was taken to one of the hotel rooms on the third floor of the Whitehead Campus Center. That night, Bravacos called her mother, who suggested that she quarantine at home, two hours away. Bravacos also had a point person, Walter Sullivan, who she Zoomed with while still on campus. While at home, Bravacos recalled, “I couldn’t Zoom into any of my classes, which was kind of tough.” Worse, trying to figure out the logistics of returning to campus was difficult, as she did not receive an immediate response from Health Services.
The second student interviewee chose to remain anonymous, so they will be referred to as Student 1. They tested on September 14th and received their positive COVID-19 result two days later, on September 16th, and quarantined in 6 Railroad Ave. Health Services called them shortly after, and they recalled having 15 minutes to pack their things. Campus Security then escorted them to 6 Railroad Ave, a house overlooking the Duck Pond, and gave them keys to an apartment in the building.
The student spent the following hours making a close contacts list, which ended with around 18 names, and they sent it to Health Services. Later, they learned from many of their close contacts that Health Services had not contacted all of them. “When I was texting people like ‘hey did you get your results back, how are you feeling’ stuff like that, and some people were like ‘what are you talking about?’ I was shocked that that was the case,” they expressed during an in-person interview.
During their quarantine, Student 1 had meals delivered to them twice a day. They also attended classes via Zoom. Like Bravacos, Student 1 had a point person with whom they checked in occasionally, and they made an effort to continue talking with friends and family.
The next student interviewed also chose to remain anonymous, and thus, will be referred to as Student 2. They tested positive on September 16th, even after having tested negative earlier in the week, and were housed at the Whitehead Campus Center. Student 2 was not allowed to get tested on campus a second time in the same week, so they went to an off-campus testing site when they began to feel symptomatic.
Student 2 attempted to contact Health Services about their positive test the weekend they received it, but Health Services was closed. They proceeded to call Campus Safety and were escorted to a guest room on the third floor of Whitehead Campus Center. The room provided Student 2 with a bed, dresser, fridge, and personal bathroom. The only caveat was that the room did not have a view of the outside. “The window [of my room] overlooked the inside of the building so I didn’t see the outside, I didn’t get any fresh air for the whole week,” Student 2 recalled amid an interview. Student 2 also gave Health Services a list of close contacts. They were allowed five and all were contacted by Health Services.
Student 2’s classes during isolation were a mixed bag. Student 2 Zoomed into two of their classes and watched lecture recordings for the other one. One of their professors was especially accommodating: “One of my teachers, Katheryn Whitcomb, baked me oatmeal cookies and sent me cupcakes.” However, they were not able to attend their fourth class in any capacity, asynchronous or otherwise, stating, “I was supposed to get recordings but I think there were problems with the computer – it just never ended up working and I talked to the professor and got caught up in other ways.”
Student 2 also had a check-in person, Kathy McGovern, who they talked with during isolation. Student 2 and McGovern exchanged emails and Zoomed a few times. Student 2 remarks that during their Zooms with McGovern, “It was just nice to talk to somebody.” However, they added, “The Haverford administration should acknowledge the emotional challenge that being in isolation and being sick presents. If I didn’t have my parents and my friends, I think it would’ve been a lot harder.”
The final student interviewed was Cole Hannah ’24, who tested positive on September 17th and was housed in Whitehead Campus Center. Once Hannah got to his isolation room, which he described as being “kind of like a hotel room,” Health Services called him and told him to list his close contacts. He listed seven people, all of whom were contacted by Health Services. Similar to Students 1 and 2, the college delivered food to him twice a day, and his professors were accommodating. “I was able to get extensions on everything. The dean Brian Cuzzolina helped, he would kind of encourage [my professors] to be mindful of my current situation,” Hannah stated during an interview.
On September 24, when Hannah’s isolation period had ended, he tested positive again. Yet instead of returning to Whitehead Campus Center, Health Services told him to return to his dorm room. Hannah said, “They just said to keep a mask on and be mindful of your situation, so I guess that just means isolate in your room.” Hannah told his suitemates that he had COVID-19 and was quarantined in his suite. Hannah, fortunately, has a single, but he still took precautions when going to the bathroom. Hannah said, “I had to wait until no one was there to use the bathroom or else I feel like [that] would’ve been compromising them.” He quarantined in his suite over the weekend, and the following Monday, he returned to in-person classes. Reflecting on his quarantine experience, Hannah says “I think overall it was pretty positive, I don’t think they could’ve done anything better than what they already did.”
As there has been an uptick in cases over winter break — there are currently six student cases at the college, the second-highest number this academic year, and cases nationwide have increased 215% in the past two weeks, according to The New York Times — more students are anticipated to face quarantine upon return from winter break. Hopefully learning about the college’s quarantine process from last semester will ease some students’ anxiety around quarantining in the upcoming semester. It is evident from these accounts that although the overall process may be uniform, one’s experience greatly depends on when they test positive, where they stay, and who their professors are. Student 2 reflected, “The uncertainty that went along with the quarantine made it so much scarier.”
Yikes! The inconsistency in reporting close contacts isn’t great. Thanks for the informative report.
“When asked to be more specific about where the college is currently housing infected students, President Wendy Raymond vaguely expressed, ‘I don’t know if that’s public information.'” Kudos to the Clerk for getting some real information anyway and I suppose the use of the word “vague” here is about as far as you can go without turning this piece into an editorial, but I must say I find President Raymond’s answer quite strange. I haven’t personally thought through all of the drawbacks of providing more information about quarantine policies than the college currently does, but President Raymond should have by now, and should stop withholding information without a clear rationale. Locking people in a room for a week, especially post-vaccination, is a pretty big deal, even if you think it’s the right thing to do. Given that Haverford is planning to continue isolating people who test positive this spring–not only preventing people from attending class and seeing friends but presumably continuing to forbid solo outdoor exercise, masked or not–and that it is likely that a decent proportion of the student body will be isolated at some point, I think they should be more transparent. Personally, I also think that the college should relax the isolation rules significantly; at this point, our actions are unlikely to meaningfully affect the spread of the virus in this area and the college itself, between its age structure and near-universal vaccination status, is probably one of the lowest-risk agglomerations of 1,000+ people in the country. That said, even if you disagree with me there or even find that view objectionable, I think you can accept the argument that isolation is a major infringement of the freedoms students have been accustomed to up to 2020 and thus is not something Haverford should feel comfortable keeping mysterious.