Punished for Having COVID: One student’s experience quarantining in the Gatehouse.

It felt like I was being punished for having COVID”, junior Maggie Rafidi said when being interviewed about her experience quarantining with COVID. “It was the first time I felt like my experience at Eastern was just a business transaction, and I wasn’t even getting what I paid for.”

While contracting COVID would be a difficult experience for anyone, Rafidi felt as though Eastern University did not adequately respond to the situation, despite the plans that were supposedly in place. Rafidi entered quarantine on Jan. 25 after testing positive with COVID and was released on Feb. 9, fourteen days later. Those fourteen days were probably going to be the most difficult of her entire semester, Rafidi acknowledged.

“I didn’t have a lock on my door, I didn’t have screens on my windows,” Rafidi said when asked about the condition of the facilities where she stayed. She told the reporter that there were no desks and chairs in the room, that the blinds were broken and she had
to fix them herself, and that there was no supervision regarding the separation of male and female students, unlike in every other dorm on campus. Rafidi said that she didn’t feel in any danger, but she knows that not everyone would feel that way in her shoes. “They treated
it like it was a hotel but then you get to your room and there’s no lock on it. Do you want me to ask for help?”

However, Rafidi’s biggest struggles came from the administration. Infected students don’t receive 24/7 medical supervision; at one point, around 6 or 7pm, Rafidi was having trouble breathing and called the nurse. The nurse told her that she was off-duty and to call someone else. Rafidi then reached out to a Resident Director, who called an ambulance for her, which Rafidi had not asked for. “My insurance was able to cover that, but what would’ve happened if they hadn’t?” Rafidi wondered. To get back from the hospital, Rafidi was told to call an Uber, despite the fact that she was COVID positive and would expose the driver. Luckily, Rafidi thought to call someone from the Gatehouse who was also positive to come pick her up, but the school’s solution had been to put an Uber driver in harm’s way.

Rafidi also felt that the university’s narrative around COVID is harmful to those who fall ill. “To say that the ones who test positive are the ones making bad decisions sucks, because that’s not always the case,” Rafidi said. “I was being very cautious because of my asthma, and I still tested positive. They’re putting out the narrative that the people who get sick are the irresponsible ones. It makes you feel like you’re not worth the care, but I’m sick and vulnerable, away from home, and I should be worth the care. I’m glad I had a roof over my head and somewhere to stay, because I’m not local, but that’s all it felt like.”

While the administration didn’t provide the support Rafidi needed, she did find support from her family, professors, and her friends. “I did have professors reach out to me, even ones that didn’t have me this semester,” Rafidi said. She also related how her friends were able
to provide both mental and material support, from encouraging her to getting groceries for her. Looking back, Rafidi said, “I think the best thing I could’ve done was let people know I was in need.”

When asked what advice she would give to those who are or may be in her situation, Rafidi advised people to be aware of the mental health issues that come with contracting COVID. “It made me cry one night thinking about all the people I had infected or could have infected,
and that’s an added burden that doesn’t happen when you’re normally sick,” Rafidi admitted. “It was easier to tell my professors that I was sick physically than to express what was going on mentally.” Rafidi’s experience in quarantine was far from what she’d hoped it would be. Towards the end of the interview, she said, “No other student should have to go through this, and the only way things are going to change is if people talk about it.”

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