Chloe Chen / Gavel Media

Exploring Quarantine: A Necessary Evil

Walking into his dorm for the first time in weeks, Kevin Lopez, MCAS ‘24, sets down his obligatory meal bag—filled with enough food to last him several days of isolation—before noting the large welcome message scrawled on the box in the middle of his room. Moments later, his roommate would come crawling out to surprise him.

Lopez spent the better part of his winter break recovering from COVID-19. In his hotspot hometown of Los Angeles, CA, estimates showed that nearly one in three people had been infected with the disease. With four people in his household working outside the home, Lopez knew the chances were high that he would also fall ill. However, the promise of post-recovery antibodies kept him hopeful for a healthy semester—until he received a phone call from BC only hours after moving in.

“Seeing my mother have the worst symptoms made me realize how serious this is,” Lopez said. “We thought, We really tried our best and still got it. It’s weird because sometimes I feel like we can prevent [transmission] but also it is what it is.”

Because Lopez had already been symptomatic over winter break, he knew what to expect from COVID-19. Yet Lopez noted that being sent to quarantine in Pine Manor posed its own challenges. Lopez went without a heater in his room for two days before a friend informed him that he could ask for one, and faced other difficulties including  sharing a communal bathroom and navigating isolation.

Allison Burke, LSEHD ‘24, mentioned that she also assumed quarantine would be easier to handle than it was. Although Burke never tested positive, she was sent to Hotel Boston after her roommate exposed her to COVID-19.

“From the outside [looking] in, I felt like it wouldn’t be that bad,” Burke said. “I feel like I’ve been a lot more cautious, which I was before, but even more now because I don’t want to go back and I don’t want to send my friends in either. I don’t want to put anyone through quarantine.”

In contrast, one junior who chose to remain anonymous found BC’s approach to dealing with students who tested positive for COVID-19 more inviting than expected, stating: “I thought I would be greeted with animosity and scolded by the school. I was under the impression that BC was looking to reprimand students and guilt them for contracting the virus [because] of the numerous [intimidating] emails that we’ve received.”

Like Lopez, the anonymous student was sent to Pine Manor, where they were greeted with snacks, drinks, and candy before being led to their room. Even so, they attribute parts of their experience to the fact that they did not need particular accommodations or have dietary restrictions. With two food options offered per night, some students opted instead for UberEats—an inaccessible option for low-income students, according to the anonymous student. Lopez shared a similar struggle where the food he ordered never reached him and did not receive a refund after contacting the seller.

“If you’re enforcing the rule that we can’t leave the building at all, they might as well cancel the [choice] of ordering delivery,” Lopez said. “It’s so complicated and a long process. [The staff] were really flexible with providing what we needed, but not to the point where we could just walk outside to pick up [waiting] food.”

Lopez and Burke both iterated that quarantine procedures were slow—after being contact traced, Burke had an hour and a half to pack; after finding out about his positive test result, Lopez had three. But once students arrived at their destination, patience was even more vital.

“I hated staying there,” Lopez said. “I had so much free time that I got tired of it after the first few days and started to stay up all night. I needed to socialize so I kept calling my friends but they had their lives. I felt like I was going a little insane because every day was the same.”

To break the monotony of solitary confinement, Lopez began to look forward to making pillow forts, posting on social media about his wild turkey friends, and calling his BC-appointed counselor, Rick. For students heading into quarantine, Lopez hopes to pass along the same sense of optimism that Rick encouraged him to cultivate.

“It is terrible and it sucks,” Lopez said. “But as long as you can see the bright side in it, working on yourself and reflecting throughout the week[s], you’ll find something worth remembering.”

Or, from Burke’s perspective, remember why such measures are necessary. Experts say that around 80 to 90 percent of people, whether by infection or vaccination, need to have antibodies to the virus to achieve herd immunity. Until then, it is essential to continue wearing masks in public, maintaining physical distance from others, and staying vigilant.

“Entering quarantine will seem like there is a long journey ahead,” Burke said. “But in the end, you’ll get out of it, and you’ll have your friends on the other side. It’s for the best.”