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Students reveal life in isolation: difficulties with sick tray system, uncleaned rooms

By Mike Sherr
Staff Writer

As of March 12, there have been 160 total on and off-campus student Covid-19 cases. When a student tests positive, they are swiftly moved into isolation in Townhouses West. Students have been having mixed experiences in the Townhouses and the reports have not been all positive. 

While some students have explained uneventful times in isolation, others have been forced to deal with unnecessary physical and mental stress while having to cope with Covid-19 symptoms.

Helen Varvastoulis, a freshmen psychology major, was put into isolation in Townhouse West on Feb. 19 and stayed for seven days, spending the last three days at her home. Varvastoulis did not have any problems with the dining service and ordered food from off-campus restaurants through Doordash. The freshmen’s only issue was that the microwave occasionally did not work.  

Students explain their experiences in isolation in Townhouses West (Anthony Garcia / News Editor).

“Usually in the morning I would sleep until very late, then just do homework,” she said. Varvastoulis also spent time with other isolated students in her building, limiting the mental toll isolating may have. 

“The first couple of nights it was very lonely but it got better because I just occupied myself.”

Not all students have been having the same uneventful experience as Varvatsoulis. On Feb. 3, a freshman who had asked to stay anonymous was contacted and told that they tested positive for Covid-19. 

The student was told to order all three meals through the sick tray system as soon as they entered isolation in order to get their food on time. What contact tracers did not tell the student was that they had to order twelve hours in advance for a food order to be made. The student was first contacted at 11 p.m. and was not moved in until the morning of Feb. 4. When the student ordered food the next morning after they moved into isolation, nothing was delivered because they did not order the night before. 

The College’s sick tray system requires students to order meals twelve hours in advance (tcnj.sodexomyway.com).

“I didn’t know until after I didn’t receive my food,” the student told The Signal. “I had a hard time concentrating and doing my work because I hadn’t eaten anything all day.” The student eventually ordered food through Uber Eats and had it delivered to their door, something only students in Townhouses West are able to do. 

The student found that their microwave was broken the next day. After contacting the Department of Residential Education and Housing, a new microwave was brought to the lobby of the townhouse the student was staying in and had to be lifted up three flights of stairs to the student’s room. “It wasn’t an issue for me, but if I did have Covid it would have put a lot of strain on my chest.”

When the student went to go take a shower after they brought the microwave to their room, they found dirt covering the bathtub and the floor. “It made me feel like the room hadn’t been cleaned in a while,” the student said.

On the fifth day the student was emailed by Michelle Forbes, a Resident Director for the Department of Residential Education and Housing, and was told that their test was a false positive. They were released from isolation and were allowed to move back into their normal residence hall. “I felt like I went through all this nonsense for nothing,” they told The Signal.

Jaison Hiltner, a freshman history major, also had a distressing experience while quarantining in New Residence Hall. Hiltner entered quarantine on Feb. 22 to a similar situation as the anonymous student. 

When he entered the room, Hiltner noticed it was dirty and had to clean it before unpacking. He also had a difficult time with receiving the food he ordered. “I would only sometimes receive the food that I ordered, and the times that I did they were cold and I had to microwave it.”

Hiltner’s mental health also took a toll on him while he was there. “I never had anyone check up on me to see how I was doing mentally,” he said. The freshman said he did not reach out to mental services because of rumors he had heard that the Mental Health Services department is not effective at helping students.

Students understand the severity of the ongoing pandemic, but they expect that if they do test positive they’ll be taken care of while isolating from the community. The anonymous student told The Signal, “I understand the need to isolate me, but I wish the living conditions were a little more manageable.” 

To tell your isolation or quarantine story, email The Signal at signal@tcnj.edu.

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