Students recount isolation experiences after reporting symptoms


Students in isolation receive a Calvin blanket and puzzle. (Photo by Katherine Benedict)

Isolation is a nerve-racking word in 2020, especially while navigating the return to school, and Calvin students going through isolation in these first weeks have had disparate experiences with the system.

Calvin’s official procedure for preventing the spread of COVID on campus involves isolating students with COVID-like symptoms in suites in Rooks-VanDellen, where Kelsey Colburn (Calvin’s COVID case manager) works as a liaison between isolated students and Residence Life, Dining Services, the Center for Student Success and other services to ensure the student has what they need.

Sarah Visser noted that during this time officials “are sensitive to the disruption and anxiety that accompanies COVID-like illness.”

The goal of the isolation process is to keep sick students who might have COVID from spreading it.

Sophomore Samuel Fynewever, who recently spent a few days in isolation, wants his fellow students to “play it safe! Isolation sucks but it’s still the right thing to do. If you’re on the fence, definitely better safe than sorry!”

Fynewever arrived on campus early and received a negative COVID test result before moving in. Four days later, though, he woke up with a headache and a higher temperature than usual.

Fynewever contacted Health Services and shortly received a call with guidance for how to get more testing and how to proceed while awaiting results.

Dr. Laura Champion, Calvin’s medical director, was “really on top of it,” Fynewever said. She checked in with him twice a day over Teams to monitor symptoms. 

Dining Services initially delivered meals to Fynewever’s room number, but in the wrong residence hall. The KHvR RAs worked to sort out the confusion, and meals began to arrive at Fynewever’s door the following day.

He eventually tested negative for COVID. 

Sophomore Clare Doss began isolation after reporting a sore throat Thursday morning. Doss followed #CampusClear’s directions to stay in her dorm room and submitted a reporting form online. Early in the afternoon, she was contacted about meals. After reaching out to health services later that day, she was contacted about isolating and  monitoring symptoms. 

“I felt pretty in the dark,” Doss says of her isolation period. Professors were helpful in getting her connected to classes, but she felt like her physical and mental health were being disregarded.

Despite being cleared to attend classes in-person on Friday, Doss’ increasing anxiety about the situation prevented her from leaving her room. The decision to clear her was overruled later that day, and she was scheduled for a COVID test. “I wish that my health had been better discussed,” she said, “and not in the context of COVID.”

“I recommend people follow the guidelines not only for other people’s physical health but for mental health too,” Doss adds, “after coming to school, the fear of corona has deepened so much in my day-to-day mental health…I want people to be safe because isolating is so lonely.” 

Despite an eventual negative test result received Tuesday morning, she encourages fellow students to report any symptoms “for the sake of everyone’s health. it is important that we do work together to protect each other.”

Calvin’s focus on tracking and testing for COVID has been successful so far in preventing outbreaks on campus.