A Photo of my Hotel Room at the Hyatt Regency
In a sense, Corona is almost like an elusive, A-list celebrity. We hear so much about it, it’s constantly featured on television and in newspapers, and everyone is influenced by it. However, as someone who took social distancing pretty seriously before school started, I only knew one or two people who had actually caught the disease between March and August. That all changed when I got to Tulane and rejoined a densely-packed community where there would be a substantial risk of Corona present.
I was contact traced in early September by a friend who I spent so much time with that I thought, “there’s no way I don’t have it.” When she ran into my room to tell me that her weekly-mandated test had come back positive, I had a very mixed reaction. Obviously I wasn’t mad – this could have happened to anybody. I was more so surprised that for the first time since all of this madness had started, I was standing in front of someone who actually had corona. It seemed surreal, like I had run into Kendall Jenner on the street.
My case manager called me a few hours later, a gap of time which is slightly concerning, considering I could’ve been unaware and still out wandering campus. I shoved essentially my entire wardrobe into a huge suitcase that my parents made me keep in my room this year in preparation for this exact scenario. I also took books, a candle, some activities, and anything else that would make the Hyatt Regency feel like home for the next fourteen days. I chose to go to the Hyatt that night instead of Patterson or an Airbnb because 1. I didn’t want to be surrounded by kids who actually had corona before I knew if I was positive and 2. The Hyatt is free.
You have to leave campus the day you get contact traced, no exceptions. I wish I had known to request a room with a balcony and/or a view! I legitimately did not see sunlight or feel fresh air for a full two weeks, and I think that a balcony would have made a huge difference in how I felt physically and mentally. I also stared at a parking garage the entire time, so a higher floor than 7 or a nicer view could have made it feel like I was relaxing on vacation, as opposed to the uncertain panic felt while waiting to see if symptoms would develop.
The food selection offered by the hotel is not bad by any standards, just a little repetitive. I had the same turkey-pesto sandwich nine of the fourteen days for lunch because there wasn’t anything else that I liked. Even so, the free Starbucks in the morning pretty much made my day. If I didn’t like the food, I ordered in and the hotel staff delivered it right to my room. The same went with any packages that I received. I had at least four different items delivered from Warren right to the Hyatt.
My only true complaint about Tulane’s quarantine was that I was tested once for Corona on the fifth day. My test was negative, yet I was forced to stay for another 9 days, seemingly pointless since I was not to be tested again unless I reported symptoms. Besides that, the hotel staff could not have been nicer or more accommodating to my needs, and even went above and beyond to deliver me extra food, water, and chargers before the expected hurricane.
Physically, quarantine was not that tough for me. You’re allowed to walk up and down the hallways for exercise and the rooms are big enough for a yoga mat. It was the days I didn’t move from my bed much that were the toughest. Working at my desk or in a friend’s room made a huge difference because those moments are truly the only glimpses of normalcy.
Emotionally and mentally is where the entire experience became challenging.
It was a rough start to the school year for a number of personal reasons, so being subjected to a fourteen-day-involuntary-solitude was probably one of the worst things for my mental health at that point. On top of this, I left right when Tulane students were starting to go out and socialize a bit more. I’d look at Snapchat stories of girls dressed up taking pictures in their Irby bathrooms and wonder, “Where could they possibly be going?” I feel as if many people are trying to make it seem like Corona is barely affecting their social lives, like it’s some sort of unspoken competition. I now know that what was being presented on social media and the reality of life at Tulane is drastically different, but at the time I felt as if I was missing out on the makeshift college experience that Corona had forced my peers to construct.
The feeling of loneliness was exacerbated by the limited human interaction of the entire ordeal. Thankfully, a few of my best friends were on my floor, but watching movies and making Tik-Toks at night were only temporary escapes from that feeling of “woah, life is literally on hold, but only for me.” Quarantine is a strange pause, where everything around you seems to freeze, and in all honesty I am fearful of having to do it again. If you have to go into quarantine, which hopefully you won’t, make sure to create a framework beforehand that prevents loneliness as much as possible. Watching television, doing activities, and talking to my family and friends were lifelines for me. Remember to always put your mental health first, especially when quarantining. If that means asking for an extension on a paper or calling CAPS, please do so. It will make all of the difference and make your time away from Tulane much more bearable.