Usually, my biggest worry during the semester is my grades — am I going to be able to maintain the letter grade I have been working towards or not? However, my priorities are a lot different this semester, like many other things. Instead of being worked up about points I missed on an assignment, I find myself getting agitated by encounters with people who refuse to wear masks or those who wear theirs incorrectly. My biggest worry now is getting coronavirus. And a few days ago, it almost came true.
One particular Thursday afternoon, I found myself feeling incredibly nauseous. Later that evening, I found myself hunched over my toilet vomiting. As someone who has only vomited a handful of other times in their life, I was concerned to say the least. At first, I brushed it off thinking I had eaten something bad the other day. I’ve never had food poisoning, but it could have certainly happened now, right? Simultaneously, I found myself feeling anxious and paranoid about a more serious potential cause — the coronavirus.
The next morning, I found myself in discussions with my parents as well as my roommate. Overnight, other symptoms had manifested — a headache, body aches, a fever and more. I was progressively getting worse and I soon realized that I needed to do something about it. I had so many questions about my condition, but the biggest one was do I have COVID-19? After various phone conversations with my parents as well as my roommates, I decided to get tested through the University. Within the span of 40 minutes, I was standing outside of the Elson Student Health Center awaiting my COVID-19 testing appointment.
Soon after, I received a call from the Office of the Dean of Students — the office in charge of students in isolation and quarantine. Because I live in an on-Grounds apartment, I had to quarantine in case my symptoms were due to COVID-19. I was instructed to pack for what could either be 24 hours or up to 14 days and move to my quarantine destination — the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott — as soon as possible. The University and the Charlottesville Yellow Cab were able to alleviate the stress of transportation but not in a timely manner. I was waiting in the rain for 40 minutes before I embarked on my journey to the hotel, which was not as soon as possible.
Before I knew it, I was settled into my room at the hotel. The hours before felt — and still do feel — like a blur. Looking back, I don’t know how I held it together in that moment. I was not only feeling like I could pass out any second due to my symptoms, but I was also feeling so overwhelmed during the process. Through the various phone calls and emails, I was receiving so much information — from food delivery to the possible timeline of my stay to the rules I had to abide by — that I could barely wrap my head around it.
Luckily, my test came back negative, and I was only at the Fairfield Inn for a little over 24 hours. However, the time I spent there was more anxiety-inducing than I can even begin to describe. Walking to my room when I arrived, the atmosphere of the hotel was almost ghostly. There were no signs of students staying there, given that everyone was ordered to not leave their rooms. The only glimpse of life I saw was through my peephole when we had meals delivered or when I first arrived at the hotel — I remember the hotel workers’ welcoming smiles as I got my room key from them.
Now, I could probably write a separate column on the food situation itself. However, I won’t bore you with the details of the somewhat depressing meals we received. Let’s just say that not much of the food was fresh or edible. I may or may not be avoiding bagels and eggs for the foreseeable future. It’s a little ironic — you would think that the University would provide healthy and edible meals for students who could possibly be sick, right? Alas, that was not the case. Not only that, the timings were inconsistent. Only two meals were delivered on the weekend with a time gap of nine hours in between them. Luckily, I remembered to pack plenty of snacks when I was scrambling to get ready to leave.
I think the biggest anxiety-inducing part of being in quarantine was the waiting, waiting for my results to come back. My family and friends — who I kept in close contact with — were reassuring me that my results would be negative. After all, I had been doing more than just the basic precautions. There was no way I could have tested positive, right? Despite this, I couldn’t help but think the worst. How was I going to spend almost two weeks in a stuffy hotel room with food I had no desire to eat? How was I expected to focus on my academics when plagued with a severe respiratory virus? I did not have the mental capacity to even wrap my head around these questions, let alone the effects a positive test would have on me.
Thus, I spent much of my time using the TV in my hotel room. I was able to log onto Netflix and rewatch episodes of my favorite show, “The Vampire Diaries.” I could feel the schoolwork in my backpack burning a hole in the side of my head as I laid on my king-sized bed. However, I let myself take a break from the very busy schedule I was used to. As unfortunate as the situation was, I was thankful to have just a little bit of time to relax. I might have felt incredibly sick, but at least I did not have to go to classes feeling that way.
When I was released from the hotel, it felt as if a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. After one mere phone call from my COVID-19 point of contact and a negative test result, I was able to pack up and head back to my apartment. It had only been a little over 24 hours, but it was almost as if I had been waiting for weeks. When I stepped outside, it felt like I had stepped out of my personal prison. I hadn’t realized how suffocated I felt until that moment.
While I was worried about how I could possibly last two weeks in that hotel room, I was also preoccupied with thoughts of those I had been in contact with prior to my quarantine. As a second year in the School of Nursing, I have two in-person clinical labs that I attend each week. I had attended my last lab hours before my symptoms began and I kept regretting that, even though I had not felt any symptoms at the time. What if I had put my peers at risk? I even thought of the people I had interacted with the days prior to that.
I am beyond thankful that I tested negative for COVID-19 and was only in quarantine for a mere 24 hours. However, I know plenty of people who have not only tested positive but have had to quarantine or isolate themselves in worse conditions. It’s easy to think that you’re safe from the virus when you are in your personal bubble. However, it’s important to recognize that the risks can still be present regardless of how careful we are.
I know for a fact that I will be even more cautious than I was prior to this experience. Despite my past love for staying in hotels, I don’t think I want to see the inside of a hotel for a very long time. If you haven’t heard it enough before, don’t forget to wear your masks, wash your hands and stay safe.
Zoya Zahid is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.