It was a Monday morning. I was in unusually high spirits as I sat on my couch and sipped my coffee. A new week: a chance to start over and walk new paths. All of this came crashing down when a voice in my dining room gasped: “She tested positive.” Little did I know that these three words would dictate my upcoming week and eventually transport me seven hours away to my home in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
I quickly discovered that one of my housemates had unknowingly been in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19 that morning. Terror and anxiety soon became a member of our household — what do we do next? In a situation like this, every decision is time sensitive as it influences your health as well as the well-being of those you come in contact with. My housemates and I thought we would all have to quarantine for two weeks. However, after discussing our situation with Dean Hester, she informed us that only the person who had been in direct contact was required to quarantine. Our next step was to have the housemate who came in direct contact with the COVID-19-positive individual get tested. She drove to Conway that day to get a rapid test; she tested negative. Despite her negative results, she still had to self-isolate for 14 days because she was a direct contact. In addition, the rest of us were required to self-monitor our symptoms as well as keep track of how our housemate was feeling.
Every day held new challenges and questions that no one seemed to have a definite answer to; it felt like we were all spinning in circles that were fueled by fear. The deans at Harding University, specifically Dean Hester, communicated with us and gave us guidance as to what we should do next. Her communication was especially helpful when my housemate got tested again later that week and had a positive result.
I received news of her test results while I was in class; my stomach dropped. I instantly felt that everyone was staring at me and scooting away from me. Somehow, I was convinced that everyone knew my housemate tested positive and that I was now classified as a “direct contact.”
We informed Dean Hester of the change in our situation and she immediately contacted all of us through her personal phone. Dean Hester even called one of my housemates and told her: “You all have options.” My housemates and I were under the impression that we would have to quarantine in our house for the next 14 days. It was not an ideal situation, but at least we were all going through the difficult situation together. Dean Hester then informed us that while we could stay in our off-campus residence and quarantine together, this was the worst option. She then explained that if one of the four of us began to show symptoms during our quarantine, we would have to be tested and start our quarantine over. If we quarantined together in our house, we were looking at the possibility of eight weeks of quarantine — this was not an option.
Our next option was to each stay in a hotel room at the Heritage, the University’s on-campus hotel. If we decided to proceed with this choice, we would be required to purchase a meal plan through Harding’s dining service, Chartwells. We would not be permitted to leave the room until Sept. 21. We chose not to stay because we wanted to leave that option open for on-campus students who needed to quarantine.
The final option we had was to each travel to our respective hometowns where we would self-isolate in our houses until Sept. 21. The person that lived closest to the University lived five hours away, while someone else lived nine hours away. We were not prepared to travel such a long distance at such short notice, but we all felt this was our best option. By going home, we would not be living under the same roof as someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, and we would not be affecting one another’s health. Since we had not been in contact with our housemate since she had tested negative, we were not putting our families at risk of contracting the virus. This decision was also advised by a physician we were in contact with about our situation. We hoped that in choosing this, we would halt the spread of the coronavirus.
This experience opened my eyes to the immensely complicated nature of contracting the coronavirus or being in contact with someone who tests positive for it. Not only are people afraid of getting the coronavirus for health reasons, but it seems that people are nervous to get it because of how it will affect them socially. No one wants to be the person that tests positive for the coronavirus; no one wants to enter into the realm of an “untouchable.” Even though these situations are not personal, it is difficult to not feel like everyone is suddenly suspicious of you. We must not allow this fear to translate into a lack of responsibility; it is important to be aware of who you come in contact with and to get tested if necessary. If we are all willing to make the hard but necessary choices, such as wearing a mask, getting tested and isolating ourselves, the spread of the coronavirus will be slowed. It is our responsibility to show care and respect for our fellow man by making these difficult choices; we all serve a larger purpose, and this is one way we can acknowledge that our actions affect more than just ourselves.