Dirty Sheets & Boxed Meals: My Penn State Quarantine Experience

Being presumptively positive for the coronavirus and moving into isolation might already be the biggest challenge of my Penn State career.

The entire process was difficult, confusing, and a downright bummer from start to finish. Although my experience was far from ideal, I hope I can better prepare others who could soon be in the same boat.

To preface my tale of woes, I will say this: My experience is not in any way meant to discourage anyone from getting tested. To keep both yourself and the community safe, it’s important to get checked out.

My story began on Wednesday, September 2, when a headache I’d been dealing with for a couple days turned into a low-grade fever and chills. I proactively headed into the Penn State Go app, logged my symptoms, and contacted an on-call nurse. From there, I scheduled a coronavirus test, which required me to jump through so many hoops that I became incredibly frustrated.

I needed to make a MyQuest account before I scheduled my appointment. MyQuest is where I will find my results when they eventually come back. I scheduled my appointment for 12:40 p.m. Thursday and anxiously waited.

That morning, I walked to Eisenhower Parking Deck from my dorm to take my coronavirus test. I patiently waited for my turn and gave my information to the nurse upon checking in. She told me that because I’m living in an on-campus dorm, I’d need to isolate myself in Eastview Terrace while waiting for my results even though I hadn’t tested positive yet.

I was completely unaware I needed to isolate there before receiving my results. I assumed I would be told to quarantine in my dorm until my results came back and then move forward accordingly. This information would have been helpful to have known earlier in the process. I was extremely shaken hearing I would need to isolate and wasn’t even phased when I needed to stick a long Q-tip up my nose.

Once I returned to my dorm, I packed all of my class books, my laptop, 14 days’ worth of clothing, toiletries, a towel, a pillow, and a blanket. I was told linens would be provided. I then waited for Housing to get in contact with me, but two hours passed before I received a call. The woman on the phone told me what to pack again and told me that someone else would be in contact with me shortly. Another hour and a half passed before I got a call asking when I would be able to get to Eastview.

After that call, I learned there was no transportation in place to get me and all my stuff to the other side of campus. I have a car, but because of my permit, I couldn’t drive over and park at Eastview. So, I begrudgingly hauled my heavy belongings 20 minutes across campus. Not great!

Wouldn’t you think Penn State, with all its shuttles, could have transported me? Wouldn’t the goal be to keep me as far away from other students rather than having me walk through the middle of campus? The walk left me with red, bruised shoulders and blisters on my hands. It was stressful and exhausting.

Once I finally got there, I was greeted by a woman who led me to the building I would be isolated in. Upon entering, a man was talking about meals that hadn’t been delivered and things that needed to be done. It seemed so disorganized and only increased my anxiety. The woman who led me got a phone call while opening my door and then just ushered me inside without saying a word. I was given a dinner I could not eat due to my dietary restrictions (which no one asked me about!).

Inside the room, I found a bed with two stained top sheets and a rough, old blanket. The floor had stains all over it and one visibly wet and sticky mark in the middle of the carpet that I’m still actively avoiding.

I double-layered the top sheets over the mattress and thankfully brought a blanket of my own and my own towel. These comforts have meant the most throughout this extended stay.

There was a sheet of paper on the desk inside instructing me to keep my door locked unless I was picking up food in the hallway and to wear a mask while doing so.

Being alone in the room with zero information from the staff, worn down from the day’s stressful events, I had what I can only describe as a panic attack. I am left with the impression that to the people here I am just a door number. They meet my physical needs (for the most part) but didn’t show interest in my emotional and mental well-being.

I settled enough to try and sleep for the night and hoped for a brighter day ahead.

Friday, September 4 was my first full day in isolation, and it was not much better. It started with someone pounding on my door to let me know there was breakfast in the hall for me.

The second time they knocked on my door for food around noon. I was again given food I could not eat due to dietary restrictions…even though I’d already requested options that I could eat.

However, the food did get better for dinner.

Now that I’ve shared all the rough bits of my isolation so far, I do have some advice for others so they don’t have as tough a go as I did:

Now that I’m a bit of an isolation pro, here are a few quick tips you hopefully won’t need to use:

  • Find a ride to Eastview if you can.
  • Bring things for comfort, including your own sheets, blanket, pillow, and towel.
  • Double-check you have all toiletries (shaving razor, soap, etc.). They won’t give you any hand soap!
  • Bring some of your favorite snacks if you have them before you need to leave (and if you like hot beverages, bring something microwave safe).
  • Be prepared to answer a lot of questions and take a deep breath. There is a sheet of paper on the desk in the room that you can read to fill in some of the blanks.
  • Make sure you take your mental health into account and don’t worry about the assignment that’s due. Just get settled in! You have time, and it’s going to be okay.

Quarantine gets extremely boring. To pass the time while I’ve been here, I’ve watched an unhealthy amount of TikTok and even learned some new dances. Netflix has been my saving grace, and I also brought a book to read. Calling and FaceTiming my friends and family has really made it easier.

As far as actually studying, personal motivation is at an all-time low. It’s hard to focus when you really don’t have a time limit or things to do. You’re just in a little room all day.

Look, at the end of the day, quarantine sucks. Hell, I’m still here and don’t even know if I’m positive yet. But getting tested when you feel under the weather is responsible and always the right thing to do. If you wind up here, I wish you the best of luck. I’m hopeful others will have a better experience than me.

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About the Author

Teagan Staudenmeier

Teagan is a senior majoring in photojournalism and is one of Onward State's photographers. She is from Wilkes-Barre, PA, but is a Canadian at heart. On campus, she is involved in Photo Club and is an Aurora outdoor orientation leader. For more fun content, follow her on Twitter: @Teag_42.

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