Quarantine Protocols Keep Students Full and Fulfilled

two young women indoorsFirst-year roommates Sophie Becker and Melanie Dong were understandably disappointed when Student Health Service (SHS) let them know they had come into close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

But as they completed their second and final week of quarantine, both say the University community came together to make their stay as comfortable and convenient as possible, given the circumstances. They both were willing to share their story to give an inside look at the experience.

“Time is definitely passing faster than I thought it would, the school really takes care of you,” said Dong, an 18-year old from Ellicott City, Maryland. “We have snacks for weeks!”

On their first day in quarantine, Dong and Becker were provided a case of flavored sparkling water, juices, fruits, vegetables and frozen dinners, in addition to three daily meals delivered by the COVID support team. Not long after, the support team dropped off a gift basket packed with coloring books, water bottles, blankets and, yes, more snacks.

a photo featuring a plethora of snacks and drinks with text overlaid that says "making isolation bearable bc we go to the best school ever @sophie.b3" and another box that says "we love you @pittofficial @pittstudentaffairs"Dong shared a picture of the gift bag haul that was taken by Becker and included the message, “We go to the best school ever.”

Steve Anderson, associate dean and director of residence life in the Division of Student Affairs, said a COVID support team with representatives from Student Health Service, Environmental Health and Safety, Housing Services, the Office of Business and Auxiliary Services and Maintenance has been planning for months to make the accommodations as comfortable as possible for those in quarantine and isolation, which in turn keeps other students and the community at large as healthy as possible.

The plan calls for daily health and general wellness check-ins from the COVID support team and from SHS representatives. To keep students indoors and isolated, it also ensures they have all the supplies they needed and then some during their stay.

“We wanted to make sure they had enough. We tell them if we’re delivering a meal and they need more to let us know and we can bring something extra on the next run,” he explained. “Being in quarantine isn’t ideal, we wanted to make sure we have enough to comfort them and get them through this process.”

The meals are plentiful but also generally healthy, according to Becker, who sent photos of her meals back home to approving parents. 

“I think we’re eating better in here than we were out there,” she said. “It’s rice and chicken breast and we’re actually eating pretty good in here.”

One advantage for Becker and Dong, who are studying nursing in the School of Nursing, was having the support of friends.

“It’s been very helpful to know that we have them on the outside,” said Becker, an 18-year old from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

Anderson said students in quarantine and isolation housing can ask the COVID support team for assistance. He said they’ve filled requests for toiletries, extra pillows, extra blankets, toothbrushes and even picking up packages and deliveries. They take particular care to accommodate special requests for meals, a feature Dong and Becker noticed early on.

“We had different gift bags because she has a peanut allergy,” said Becker.

As Becker and Dong approach the end of their time in quarantine, they said students should know the process is less intimidating than they might think and more important than they may realize.

“The school really takes good care of you, it feels good to know Pitt is on top of everything and cares about students in quarantine, that we’re not forgotten,” said Dong.

“I know it’s a difficult thing and it’s not fun, but at the end of the day you have to do what’s most important for your health and the health and safety of everyone else on campus,” said Becker.

Quarantine vs. isolation

Though these two words are often used interchangeably, there are key differences.

Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others since it is possible to be contagious even before someone develops symptoms. Someone in quarantine stays in their home, place of residence or other designated facility since it is possible to be contagious, even before someone develops symptoms. 

Isolation is used to separate sick people from healthy people. This term refers to someone known or presumed by a medical professional to have COVID-19. Someone in isolation is staying in their home, place of residence or other designated facility due to illness. 

At Pitt, most students are able to quarantine in their residence hall or off-campus residence, while those who have tested positive are moved into dedicated isolation housing. There are similarities between isolation and quarantine, however, including access to the full support of the COVID support team, who will provide meals, snacks, medical and wellness check-ins, activities and other services. And in both isolation and quarantine, it’s critical that students follow all of the rules to help protect those around them. Learn more at coronavirus.pitt.edu.