10 Days Away: The Experience of Life in a Fordham COVID-19 Isolation Dorm

Over+200+students+have+tested+positive+for+COVID-19+on+the+Rose+Hill+campus%2C+forcing+many+students+into+isolation+and+quarantine.+%28Courtesy+of+Facebook%29

Over 200 students have tested positive for COVID-19 on the Rose Hill campus, forcing many students into isolation and quarantine. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Thomas Aiello, Contributing Writer

Friday, Feb. 19th — A freezing cold snow storm swept away the Fordham campus. I got up and immediately took my temperature to make sure that it was still in decline. I looked at the thermometer to see if I had stabilized from the day before, but my temperature had only subsided to a low-grade fever. 

I got out of my bathroom in Finlay Hall, got dressed, strapped on my boots, ordered tea from Starbucks and headed over to the O’Hare lawn to get tested for COVID-19. Chills ran down my spine as I made my way through the icy conditions to the testing tent. I saw two lines: one for standard PCR tests and one for rapid tests. There were about 15 kids in each line, and by the time my test was over, the rapid testing line had only grown longer.

After my test, I immediately ran to pick up my chai tea at Starbucks, and then made my way back to my dorm. I received a call from the testing center, and they delivered the news that I was dreading — a positive result from the rapid test for COVID-19.

It all happened so fast; one minute I was packing a bag and making an obscene amount of phone calls, and the next thing I knew, I was four days into my quarantine period in my isolation dorm in O’Hare Hall.

When I first walked into O’Hare hall, I felt confined by my little room. With no contact to the outside world, the only sort of person-to-person interaction I had was leaving my room to put the trash out — which was a mere two-step journey. Occasionally, I would catch a glimpse of another human being when I opened my window to allow some fresh air into my room.

Out of those who have tested positive for COVID-19, I was fortunate: I went through my isolation period along with another COVID-19-positive student as my roommate. He was my “COVID buddy” if you will, so for the most part I wasn’t alone at all. My quarantine roommate was actually really funny, super sarcastic and had a sort of “go with the flow” attitude.

Like any college dorm room, you have to compromise. Things like shower time, classes and down time are more of a task due to your inability to leave the room. Fortunately, my roommate was easy to compromise with so there were no issues in making any roommate agreement document.

The meals were delivered by Residential Life staff which made it feel like a five star hotel. I felt like the king of the world not having to hike across campus for food.

When I first arrived at the room, I had a hard time accepting the fact that I was going to be in a room for 10 days without being allowed to leave or see other people with the exception of the person who is in the isolation room with me. Coping with the 10-day quarantine was definitely the most difficult part of the process. You are sent away to a remote dorm room in another residence hall with fellow students who are not in quarantine. You’re not sent to a actual COVID-modified quarantine dorm — you’re just put in a room with a COVID “label.” Everyone lives their normal lives while you’re stuck in this room. So, the positive kids are all in the same boat trying to find ways to keep busy.

Between doing my homework, watching YouTube, watching sports and doing some of my daily routines, I had just enough to distract me. I also took up a few peculiar new hobbies: collecting plastic utensils, pacing the floor and watching videos of the Snowy Owl.

Perhaps the most socialization during isolation is calling all your friends and relatives over the phone. Once you get pushed out of your social circle at school, there is nothing that is more reliable than family. From your parents, siblings, cousins, all the way to your distant third cousins, you’ll end up calling every relative that you are aware of.

And in the middle of all of this, you’re still confined to this little room finding ways to cope while focusing on fighting the disease. It has been the most mentally challenging thing I have endured in my college life — but I guess you never know what the pandemic may have in store for us next.