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Snapshots from isolation: A first-hand account of on-campus quarantine

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Anna McNulty ’24 returned to her dorm room in Toyon Hall last Tuesday, after a week of isolation in Munger Graduate Residences due to a positive COVID-19 test. Having tested negative on the previous Wednesday and Saturday, McNulty said Vaden Health deemed it safe for her to leave. Back inside her poster-speckled room, McNulty sat down with The Daily to give the inside scoop on what it’s like to be quarantined on campus. Along the way, she took self-portraits, which are included in this article.

Students who test positive for COVID-19 are placed in temporary isolation as soon as possible, according to Vice Provost for Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris. If students share their dorm space with other students, the University sends them an email with instructions on where to isolate and what to bring for their quarantine period of  up to 10 days. University policy requires high-risk close contacts, or those exposed to a positive case unmasked for more than 15 minutes, to review University policy regarding testing, dining and missing class. Students in isolation can view the University’s Managing Course Absences document for guidance on missing classes. 

The Stanford Daily [TSD]: What was going through your head when you saw your positive test result? 

Anna McNulty [AM]: My first thought was, what is the protocol? I was nervous about notifying everyone I’d been in contact with, I was nervous about making sure I had all my things, I was nervous about keeping up with my classes, moving to isolation and being alone — there were so many pieces to how I felt. It was all hitting me at once. 

TSD: Did you receive any advice from the University about what to do after testing positive?

AM: I called Vaden, since my positive test was from urgent care in Palo Alto and my results weren’t in Stanford’s system. They emailed me information about how to go into isolation, and then I packed a small suitcase and picked up my key to my room in Munger. 

TSD: What was your quarantine room like?

AM: I had a kitchen, a twin bed, my own bathroom. Things were good. The only issue was there was not a single thing in the kitchen cabinets — not a fork, not a spoon. For everyone who is quarantining in the future (bless your heart) please bring some kitchen appliances — a pot and silverware at least — so you can cook.

TSD: How did you get food while in isolation? 

AM: I had two meals a day delivered to my door, but there’s an option to get three. I am a big fan of the dining hall, but there were only three vegetarian options, so I transitioned from vegan burrito to chickpea wrap to tofu skewers. I wish there were more options, but I don’t know if that’s feasible. My friend brought me a pot and I also made a lot of mac and cheese. 

TSD: How did you deal with missing classes? 

AM: I emailed all my professors and told them I had Covid and was in isolation. All of them provided a Zoom option and I wasn’t behind in class at all. I’m really grateful for that. 

All of my classes also got an email that someone had tested positive. I had a friend text me from one of my classes saying, “who do you think tested positive?” I had to break the news — it was me!

TSD: What did you bring with you into isolation? Do you have any advice as to what people should take with them?

AM: School stuff, of course. Bringing books was vital. Bringing my own pillow was huge. The pillow they gave me was, shall I say, a pathetic attempt at a pillow. Definitely get some DayQuil, Advil and cough drops, too. 

TSD: How did you entertain yourself? 

AM: I have wonderful friends who made a FaceTime calendar for me. I also did some Netflix watch parties with my roommate. I played some guitar and took some self-portraits for my photography class. I know during Covid, photographers would do these photo-a-day photography projects. I wanted to practice for my class and try and encapsulate what it’s like to feel restless in one room. I was so cooped up, but wanted to represent how my mind felt like it was spinning in all different directions but I was limited to this one space. 

Anna McNulty poses for a self-portrait with a thermometer in her mouth.
(Courtesy of Anna McNulty)

TSD: You’re free! How does it feel?

AM: To be honest, the first few days [in quarantine] were kind of nice. It was a refreshing change of pace to take a step away and just focus on self-care. But when I got over it, what got me through it was knowing that I had really supportive and amazing friends who were checking in on me and excited to see me. 

When I finally walked out of quarantine, I played this song: “I’m Set Free,” by the Velvet Underground. I had to.

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Student Activism Beat Reporter
Marli Bosler ’24 is a beat reporter for the Daily from Kirkland, WA. In her free time she enjoys making Spotify playlists and daydreaming about Seattle coffee.