"This is the office of student life at The Ohio State University, I am calling with an urgent message for you, please give us a call back once you receive this message."
This was the message I received before I had to cancel all my plans, eagerly pack up, and head home for two weeks.
While this seems like a pretty simple process, it was everything but that. The way Ohio State is handling the isolation procedure, is one of confusion and anxiety, lacking communication and consistency.
I knew I had been exposed to someone who had tested positive for Covid-19, four days prior to receiving the call from student life. As soon as I knew I had been exposed, I self-isolated to make sure I would not put anyone at risk, and I called contact tracing first thing in the morning to explain my situation. Except, no one ever answered and I never received a response to my message.
The university states that a contact tracer will quickly be in contact with individuals who were exposed to the virus, but does not have any protocol for students to follow in the meantime between exposure and the isolation period. This is especially risky for students who do not even know that they have been exposed to the virus.
So, with no word from contact tracing, I anxiously stayed in my dorm, wondering what I was allowed to do. Was I allowed to go pick up food and eat outside? Go to the library? Would it be safe for me to go to my in-person classes? How do I safely use a communal bathroom without putting others at risk? Should my roommate isolate too? These were all concerns I had that were unanswered by the university and its protocol.
When I finally received my call four days later, I was given an hour to pack up my things and decide if I was able to go home, or move to isolation. It was 4:30 p.m. on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, it was a very inconvenient time for my parents to travel two hours and pick me up. The reason I called contact tracing immediately after I had been exposed, is so I could make arrangements to go home, but instead, contact tracing never answered my call, and finally contacted me at an unexpected and awkward time.
I was not able to go home until the next day, so I was still required to spend a night in the isolation dorms. Student Life told me that I would be receiving an email 15 to 30 minutes after the call, with details about my rooming assignment, and what to do. Well, three hours had passed and I still had not received an email. I called contact tracing two more times, but no one picked up either time.
30 minutes later, I received a call back, and they apologized saying something "in my file was messed up," which was evidently the reason I did not get an email shortly after the call. When I was eventually sent the email, I was instructed on where to go, given suggestions on what to bring, and what the dorms would be supplied with.
At 8:30 p.m. when I was finally given a clear procedure on what to do, I grabbed a red cart and took the so-called "walk of shame" from south campus to Lawrence Tower. When I arrived, the front desk asked if I had any food allergies, and after telling them I was vegetarian, they gave me a "plant-based" bag of food which was honestly very nice and considerate.
The back consisted of pasta with marinara sauce, broccoli, a banana, gallon of water, water bottle, and what I assumed were two vegan blueberry muffins and cookies. It of course was not the best food, but I was actually pretty surprised with it. This was probably the only good thing about the entire situation.
When moving into my room, I was given a list of the items provided in the dorm, but at least half of them were not actually in the dorm. I did not bring bed sheets or towels because the list said they would be provided, but they were nowhere to be found in my dorm at least.
The only essential things really included in my dorm were two very flat pillows, toilet paper, a small bar of soap, a half-empty bottle of sanitizer, and a small roll of paper towels. Thankfully I was only there for a night.
I called the front desk to tell them I needed towels and sheets, and they said they would be right up, but I never ended up receiving them. Also, the number on my room key was different from the actual room number I was in, so there is honestly also a possibility I could have been placed in the wrong room, which is super cool.
Thankfully the night went quick, and I checked out as soon as I could to get home. My one night in the isolation dorms was a bad enough experience, so I really feel for those who spend their entire two weeks in the dorms.
I was told that I would get a call 48-hours before I am allowed to return to campus; however, my two weeks were coming to an end, and I had still heard nothing. This time, I tried emailing student life, asking when I could return to campus, and they quickly responded saying I could come back the next day.
I only found out when I could come back, after emailing them first, I never received a phone call like I was told.
If I had not emailed them, would they have eventually told me when I could come back? Or was "something in my file" messed up again?
My biggest issue with the way Ohio State is handling its isolation procedure. It's not necessarily the towels missing from the dorm, or having to cancel all my plans on a Saturday, but it is the extremely poor communication between the administration and its students, and the anxiety and uncertainty it creates. It seems that the students are responsible for figuring out the isolation procedures, and what they are supposed to do. The university has not made this process any easier for its students, and seems to forget about them after they are told they need to isolate or quarantine.
With over 40,000 students, one would think that the university would have a more organized system and handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, but instead, they seem to slap "Together as Buckeyes" on everything and let students figure out this mess out on their own.