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So, Your Roommate Has The Coronavirus

Going to college in the middle of a global pandemic isn’t easy by any means. But the situation gets a whole lot trickier when the virus works its way into your house, apartment, or dorm and quite literally hits close to home.

For hundreds of students living in State College this semester, that situation can turn into a reality. Your roommate may test positive for coronavirus, leading to a scary couple of weeks that are particularly hard to navigate.

I experienced this in my own house of six a few weeks ago. One of my roommates began showing bad allergy-like symptoms. After getting tested the next morning, we discovered that she was positive for the coronavirus.

While she immediately began to isolate, the rest of us needed to figure out how to maneuver the next 14 days, which were lonely, boring, and frustrating to say the least. Our daily routines significantly changed, but we managed to stay safe and healthy by being careful.

Here are some of the things we learned during this process.

Get Tested & Quarantine ASAP

Living in close quarters with someone who tests positive for the coronavirus puts you at incredible risk for exposure, even if you’re lucky enough to have your own room. After all, you’re probably sharing a bathroom and kitchen, not to mention touching all of the same doorknobs and surfaces.

Regardless of what your living situation is like, the first thing you should do after hearing the news that your roommate has coronavirus is schedule the next available testing appointment using your MyUHS account.

It’s important to remember that no matter what these results may say, you can still develop the virus at any point over the next 14 days. So, you need to quarantine and avoid contact with anyone else until that period is over, even if you never actually receive a call from Penn State contact tracing.

In my case, only two of my roommates were contacted and told to quarantine, so the rest of us simply took it upon ourselves to do that safest and most responsible thing.

Don’t Panic & Leave

I get it, this is a stressful and upsetting situation that would make anyone homesick. But you can’t make any rash decisions when you’re dealing with a global pandemic.

Several of my roommates wanted to leave and go home as soon as they heard the news. However, this isn’t necessarily the safest thing to do, as it could expose more people. It’s better to stay put and wait out the 14-day quarantine while avoiding any risk of spreading the virus.

Think about your parents and older relatives. The last thing you would want to do is put them in a situation where they need to quarantine for 14 days or possibly get sick with the virus themselves. You’ll need to settle for just FaceTiming them for now.

Consider Your Options

Communication between all of your roommates is key. You’ll definitely need to come up with some sort of a plan and make sure you’re all on the same page to get through this smoothly.

If you’re living off campus, remember that Eastview Terrace quarantine and isolation is still an available option. While your infected roomie may dread going there, having him or her out of the house will definitely make it easier to contain the spread and avoid putting anyone else at risk. This option is especially useful if you have to share a room with someone person who’s sick.

If you all have your own room and the person with coronavirus decides to stay, you’ll need to split up the bathrooms. If you have only one bathroom, wipe it down with disinfectant after each use and wash your hands after touching any of the surfaces.

Make sure the infected individual stays in his or her room at all times, except to use the bathroom and bring food to the door. Keep 6 feet away and be diligent about wearing a mask inside of your house.

Keep in mind that you need to do what is safest in this scenario, not what is the most convenient. For that reason, Eastview often makes the most sense.

Clean, Clean, Clean

Cleaning is critical. If you don’t already have good cleaning supplies, you’re going to need to order them. Comet cleaning powder, gloves, disinfectant wipes, and bleach are staple cleaning items.

Make sure to deep clean all of the common areas in the house or apartment like the living room, kitchen, and bathrooms. This may take a lot of time, but you’ll be glad you did it. Otherwise, you won’t feel as comfortable spending time in shared spaces like your living room or kitchen.

Oh, and don’t forget to open the windows and get a nice breeze going.


For the most part, you’re going to need to order a lot of food. You can utilize programs like InstaCart and Giant Direct for groceries, where you have the option of curbside pickup or delivery. You can also use Uber Eats, GrubHub, and Doordash for plenty of food. That way, you won’t miss out on your downtown favorites like an Irving’s breakfast sandwich and Yallah Taco.

It’s scary when one of your roommates tests positive for the coronavirus. But if there’s one thing you should take away from my experience, it’s that you need to roll with the punches and do the best you can to keep yourself safe.

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About the Author

Rory Pelella

Rory is a senior from Binghamton, New York majoring in Spanish and journalism. She's been bleeding blue and white ever since her older siblings decided to create a family dynasty in Happy Valley in 2006. So, as you can imagine, she loves absolutely everything Penn State (especially the Cheese Shoppe downtown). She's also a die-hard Yankees, Knicks, and Giants fan (it's brutal), and would do anything for a good old fashioned New York slice. Feel free to email her at [email protected] or follow her on twitter @rorypelella.

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