When my at-home antigen test was positive after exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms two weeks ago, I faced the reality that I would need to isolate. My community coordinator quickly set up a room for me in the One Washington Circle Hotel and told me to move in as soon as possible. Before I left, she texted me that I needed to bring my own bedding to the hotel room, but upon my arrival, I realized I needed much more – my room lacked toilet paper, towels, shampoo, food and water. This lack of resources left me frustrated and hungry and made me spend large sums of money while recovering from severe symptoms. To better take care of students during the pandemic, GW must improve its COVID-19 isolation policy to include living necessities and more effective communication. Students should not have to pay for basic resources just to get through isolation.
My community coordinator explained that there were not many options available for isolation housing because more students had recently tested positive amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in the DC area. This influx of students also meant I received a roommate who tested positive through GW. Once testing positive, contagious students cannot leave isolation to get anything they need. The last thing students should have to worry about is whether they will have pillows to sleep on – GW must provide the basics for its students, especially during a difficult time.
Between telling friends that I inadvertently exposed them to the virus, contacting professors about missing class and experiencing symptoms while in isolation, I resorted to finding overpriced toilet paper and shampoo on Grubhub. Students already have a tight dining budget and many run out of GWorld as is, so leaving an expensive food delivery app as the only option for essentials is not acceptable.
Earlier this semester, students stayed at four-star hotel Yours Truly with three daily meals sent to them for a cost of $30 because drop offs from friends or delivery services were not allowed. Between delivery fees and Grubhub service charges at One Washington Circle, I paid upwards of $40 a day for toilet paper and one meal that I split three ways.
GW’s COVID-19 messaging, including its isolation guidelines, state that “the University has your safety and care as a top priority and has developed the necessary measures to help you recover as quickly as possible.” But it did not feel like the University prioritized me or helped my recovery. I was alone. In the email I received about what to expect from my isolation experience, food and bedding were not mentioned at all. I was lucky my community coordinator even told me to grab some blankets.
GW and the hotel offered no food to me at any point even though GW’s website states that officials would reach out with special instructions regarding food during isolation in hotel rooms. The University’s guidance about living resources for isolation housing offers little description of how to actually prepare for isolation, stating that the GW CARE Team will “make arrangements that accommodate specific dietary restrictions and/or food allergies.” I only received the number of the hotel lobby phone with instructions to call when I needed my food deliveries brought up to my room and ended up relying on my friends to bring my shampoo and food. I did not want to put my friends in the uncomfortable position of walking to my hotel and dropping things off, but I had no other choice.
Students can isolate in their residence hall if they have a one-person room or if their roommates also test positive, but this housing setup also faces the same problem – they still must order food through Grubhub or a similar service, per GW’s website on COVID -19 isolation and tracing. But at least these students can pick their orders up outside their building on their own as long as they wear a mask.
GW lags behind other DC area schools in respect to their pandemic isolation response. American and Georgetown universities distinctly outline what students need for COVID-19 isolation and what their space will supply them with. Students at these schools need to bring personal items like clothes and medicine, but food delivery, water and other amenities are covered. GW’s communication only tells students in hotel rooms that they will receive further instructions. The University needs to detail its instructions and improve them to make sure students are receiving the meals they need in hotel room isolation.
It is imperative that students are able to focus on recovering in isolation instead of worrying about whether they will have enough food to eat. While it is understandable that the pandemic has taken a large toll on the University, it should have prioritized proper isolation protocol from the beginning.
More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, students should not be suffering from GW’s troubled isolation policy. The University has had ample time to figure out how to provide basic living resources to students, so the lack thereof blatantly disregards their needs. During a time of sickness and stress, there must be more guidance and resources to ensure the well-being of students. GW should not ignore them simply because they walk a block away to a hotel room to isolate.
Riley Goodfellow, a freshman majoring in political science, is an opinions columnist.