I know, I know: the one thing we are all sick of hearing about. Don’t you wish we could just pretend it’s all over and everything was back to normal? Me too. But please—don’t! College campuses all across the country are facing incredible outbreaks of coronavirus as the semester starts. It’s easy to look at the situation and think, “Wow, those college kids just want to party and go to the bars and they don’t care,” which is true for some but certainly not for all. It’s frustrating to see some people still not taking it seriously, but it looks as though it may become a harsh reality for a lot of students as they begin to test positive themselves.
I’m just as tired of hearing the words “COVID,” “corona,” “pandemic” and “quarantine” as you are, but in the event that you do become sick or find yourself reading the text “I tested positive” from someone you’ve been in contact with, you may need some guidance on how to deal.
1. Take it seriously, but don’t panic.
As soon as you begin to feel serious symptoms, take note. Wear a mask, even around your housemates, until you can get tested and be sure of whether you have it or not. I personally have allergies with a runny nose and scratchy throat most of the time; however, the day I tested positive, I knew the minute I woke up…something was different. If you have that feeling: GET TESTED.
2. Stay away from others.
As soon as I felt something wasn’t normal, my roommates and I got tested. We stayed six feet apart and masked up until we got our results. We became very grateful when I was (miraculously) the only one who tested positive. The lurking possibility that any of us would have given it to someone outside of our home or that we would have to isolate brought a lot of anxiety for all of us. But staying apart when I began experiencing symptoms paid off, as none of them developed symptoms over their 14-day quarantine.
3. Do not point fingers.
This is spreading and fast. There’s really not a sure way to know where you may have picked it up, so be sure not to spark at a friend or family member because you are “sure” they gave it to you. You could have picked it up at work, at the grocery store, at class, anywhere. A good thing that my roommates and I established as soon as we moved back to school was that no one was to blame or get angry at someone in the house who tested positive. We all took the risk coming back to school and knew this was a possibility. This was extremely helpful in managing the guilt and sadness I felt when I tested positive. We supported one another and prepared for this to happen at some point.
So, you’ve received your result…
& It’s negative.
Wonderful! I’m so happy for you. But don’t look at this as your ticket of freedom. You are still responsible to follow the guidelines by the CDC. For some, this means quarantine for 14 days, and for others it means you are okay to keep living your daily life. No one wants to be stuck at home for two weeks, but you know what’s even worse? Getting other people extremely sick. Wear your mask and stay six feet away. Please.
& it’s positive.
You’re going to be okay. Your heart may drop when you look at the screen that says “detected.” Mine certainly did. You may start to panic about the places you’ve been, the people you’ve been in contact with and how you’re going to manage living for the next 10 days or more of isolation.
First: take a deep breath.
Second: Remind yourself this is temporary.
Third: Let yourself feel the sad feelings. When I tested positive, my heart sank. I think it might have fallen straight out of my chest. I couldn’t believe I really had the thing that has made the world flip upside down. Even though it was so prevalent and spreading like wildfire, it always felt like something that would never be reality for me. I was wrong.
So… now what?
1. Let the right people know.
It’s okay if you don’t want to post it all over social media and tell the world you have it. However, there are certain people you need to tell right away. It’d be a good idea to tell your roommates, parents and anyone you’ve been in close contact with since you started feeling sick or a few days before you did. Also, tell your boss/workplace right away. They may need to let others know, completely sanitize your workspace or potentially shut down.
2. Make a plan.
I live in a house of six girls and one bathroom (AKA not conducive to isolation.) Because I had my own bedroom and bathroom at my dad’s house, I have my own car to travel home without coming in contact with anyone, and he works from home. It was the best choice for me to go home to complete my isolation.
3. Make a paper chain.
It may feel kind of elementary, but ripping off a chain link at the end of each day felt like a victory. Give yourself something to look forward to each day.
4. Bring things into your room so you can have some level of independence
I had a big pitcher of water that my dad filled up every morning so I could be sure I got enough water each day. I also brought a microwave up in my room (from my freshman dorm), so I was able to make oatmeal, tea, and microwave meals and wouldn’t have to depend on someone else to cater to my every need.
5. Have activities you can do that don’t involve your phone or laptop.
I spent hours on Zoom and doing schoolwork every day, so having activities to keep me busy at times that I would usually spend hanging out with my friends or working helped me keep busy; I had a coloring book, some paints, my ukulele, and a book for times when I needed a break from the screen.
6. Take warm baths.
My body was achy… like, everywhere and all the time. Soaking in a warm bath for half an hour before bed really helped me get comfortable enough to fall asleep.
7. Stretch (if you can).
Just do what your body can handle. This helped a lot with my stiff joints and achy muscles.
8. Open windows.
Get some sunshine in your room and fresh air in your lungs. This will help you feel more energized and will boost your mood.
Recognize the good things in each day and write them down. At the end of each day, I write the things I’m feeling happy about, sad about, worried about, excited about and grateful for. Keeping a positive mindset is what pulled me through.
10. Facetime friends and family.
Isolation is lonely, but you don’t have to be completely alone. Stay in touch, share some memories and talk about the future. Again, this is temporary.
11. Do what feels right for YOU.
I’ve heard some people say they worked out and it made them feel better and some people say they couldn’t move for days because they were in so much pain. I fell somewhere in the middle of that. One night I slept thirteen hours. Thirteen! At first, I felt super guilty because I had wanted to get up early, do yoga and get ahead in my homework. The important thing I needed to remind myself was that, first and foremost, my job was to allow my body to recover; its job was to fight this virus and to rest from doing so. That day I think I got out of bed a few times to go to the bathroom, but that’s really it. Bottom line: It’s okay to rest.
I recognize that everyone’s living situation is different and that some of these things may not be possible for many, but this is how I navigated my illness and isolation. I hope this helps even one person in experiencing that time. It’s not easy, and it can really get lonely, but you will get through it. Do your best to stay positive.