Students cite discrepancies among quarantine experiences

Vanderbilt’s quarantine protocol faces complaints of inconsistency in enforcement and communication.

student health center

Emily Gonçalves

The Student Health Center, as photographed on Sept. 25, 2019. (Hustler Multimedia/Emily Gonçalves)

Ekta Anand and Brina Ratangee

Vanderbilt’s Health and Safety protocols state that variations in the quarantine process stem from students’ different living conditions, symptoms and close contact with individuals that have tested positive. 

However, when The Hustler spoke to students who have been tested for COVID-19 this semester, many mentioned discrepancies in the process that relate instead to an alleged lack of policy enforcement and timely communication from the university.

After a symptomatic student is tested, they either shelter in place or are moved to quarantine housing, depending on the student’s living situation, as indicated by Vanderbilt’s Health and Safety protocols. If a student lives with a roommate and is unvaccinated, they are moved to another location after testing; however, students that are fully vaccinated are allowed to quarantine within their rooms.

For students isolating in their dorm, the protocol is not always well executed, per Helena Spigner, a first-year.

“They did not enforce me to stay in my dorm in any way,” Spigner said. “I probably could have left if I wanted to.” 

When asked about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 quarantine protocol, Spigner cited the issue of an alleged lack of management. 

“I think it was effective if you have self-control,” Spigner said. “People who don’t want to quarantine aren’t going to quarantine.”

First-year Morrigan Dunlap-Loomis was also told to refrain from interacting with others until her COVID-19 test results became available. An hour and a half after she was tested, Dunlap-Loomis received an email from the Office of the Dean of Students with more explicit quarantine instructions. She stated that the delayed communication regarding quarantine instructions resulted in feelings of uncertainty. 

“The nurse just told me to go back and that I couldn’t see anybody,” Dunlap-Loomis said. “I had to rely on what I remembered of her verbal instructions for the chunk of time before I received the email.”

Dunlap-Loomis also shared concerns about sheltering in place as an alternative to quarantine housing, due to many students having roommates. 

“I called the [Student] Health Center to clarify that I was supposed to quarantine in my room, but my roommate could still be in the same room as me. If I were positive for COVID, I would have spread it to her, and, since she didn’t have to quarantine, she would spread it to other people,” Dunlap-Loomis said. “The policy just seems a bit counterproductive.”

In addition to housing uncertainty, COVID-19 testing entails up to a 72-hour wait for results (though Dunlap-Loomis said her results came out within a day) during which students can not attend class in person. 

However, both Spigner and Dunlap-Loomis stated that their professors were understanding during their time in quarantine. 

“One [professor] said the notes were on Brightspace and that I could email him with any questions,” Dunlap-Loomis said. “The other [professor] quickly excused my absence after I emailed her screenshot proof that I was actually in quarantine.”

Students that test positive for COVID-19 are subject to 10 days of quarantine in Blakemore House. Junior Neel Tripuraneni stated that the quarantine instructions for students who test positive are also ambiguous and discussed the advantages and potential limitations of his isolation experience. 

“I feel like they didn’t really explain anything, but they take care of you once you’re in there,” Tripuraneni said.

Tripuraneni said that the university remained attentive in communication with him during his quarantine period.  He also mentioned the amenities available in Blakemore, such as individual bathrooms, a refrigerator, a microwave and an outdoor courtyard.

“I was nervous going into it because I thought that they would just leave me alone for a week,” Tripuraneni said. “But they reach[ed] out to me through text or the My Health portal; they would ask what my symptoms are and ask me how I’m doing.”

In an email to The Hustler, Vanderbilt’s COVID-19 team described quarantine procedure for students who test positive for COVID-19 in response to a request for comment about discrepancies in student quarantine experiences.

Any individual who tests positive for COVID needs to isolate for at least 10 days regardless of vaccination status and presence of symptoms,” the COVID-19 team said in an email to The Hustler. “The Student Health Center, Occupational Health or the contact tracing team will manage the dates an individual is released from isolation and can return to campus, which may change over time.”