Dozens of Tufts students have been quarantined in dorms and off-campus housing for nearly two weeks after potentially coming in contact with a student who tested positive for COVID-19, throwing travel plans into disarray and putting lives on hold.
The university sent out emails to students suspected to have attended a March 7 Arts Haus party or a pair of classes on March 9 where they may have had contact with the student, who later tested positive for COVID-19. On Thursday night, students who confirmed their attendance at the event received emails or calls informing them that they needed to quarantine.
A number of students quarantined at Tufts told the Daily that the university instructed them to quarantine for 14 days since the date of their potential exposure to the coronavirus. That two-week span represents the virus’s maximum incubation period — the period between exposure to the virus and the development of symptoms — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Daily confirmed that a number of other students who attended classes with the student, as well as the student’s housemates, are also quarantined, putting the total number over 50.
Senior Brandon Lee was playing poker and cooking dinner with some friends late Thursday night when he received the email from the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs instructing him to quarantine. Lee received the email because he went to an economics class on March 9 that the infected student had also attended.
“It was kind of disbelief. I had no idea,” Lee said. “In hindsight it’s like, ‘Oh that kid was sick,’ but at the time it was like, ‘Brandon you’re being paranoid — people cough all the time.’”
The email threw sophomore Abigail Schell into a panic. She called her parents, canceled her flight home to Singapore and sanitized everything in her Hillsides suite.
“I think 24 hours in, I was the most concerned,” Schell said. “I got really freaked out that [from] anything I did, I was going to get the virus, that it was just everywhere.”
Across campus in Wilson House, first-year Sang Kim was also getting the news. He said that his thoughts went straight to his roommates and friends — everyone he had been in contact with since attending the party at Arts Haus.
For Kim, who will be away from Tufts for the next two years serving in the South Korean military, the hardest part was not being able to say goodbye to friends as they streamed off campus last weekend.
Some came to the door, but all they could do was wave from the threshold while Kim stood six feet away near his small dorm room’s back wall.
Neither Kim, Schell or Lee were feeling any symptoms of COVID-19 as of Sunday evening, instead mostly boredom, they said.
The students quarantined in on-campus housing have been receiving two meals a day from the university.
In the chaos of the first evening of the quarantine, Lee received a cold pizza from Nick’s House of Pizza and a gallon of Poland Spring water.
The students reported that things have improved since then, now submitting their order every evening via email and receiving a text some time mid-morning from a Dining Services worker that brunch has been delivered. They receive the second meal late in the evening.
The food is regular dining hall fare accompanied by desert and fruit, though students can still get pizza if they want.
“I’ve been eating pizza for the last three days, and I can feel myself getting unhealthy,” Kim said.
Schell is isolating in her suite with three other students who attended the Arts Haus party, but they mostly stay in their seperate rooms. Meal times, she said, provide rare moments of human interaction, as the four of them will spread out to the far corners of the common area to eat whatever Dining Services has prepared.
Approaching the end of their quarantines, the students are doing everything they can to keep themselves entertained.
Lee, a member of multiple campus comedy groups, decided to video blog his quarantine in a series he titled “The Quarantine Diaries.” In the daily episodes he has reviewed the food, given a house tour and expressed his disdain for bats, the animal scientists now believe transferred the disease to humans.
All the students say they have been spending a good deal of time on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Schell is watching a Taiwanese drama from her high school years. Appropriately, Kim is watching Money Heist, a Spanish drama in which a group of robbers is trapped inside the national mint for weeks. Lee says he is enjoying Netflix’s Narcos Mexico. There is one thing he does find off-putting, however.
“It’s been weird every time I see a show or a movie with people shaking hands or kissing each other on the cheek as the greeting or sharing drinks, I’ve been getting really grossed out,” he said.