Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, no one would have expected that as part of attending school in person, Deerfield students would be asked to quarantine while on campus. This year, however, although many students have not gone through the quarantine process a few students have been required to quarantine on three separate occasions either due to receiving a positive coronavirus test result or because of having been identified as a close contact of someone who has.
Director of Medical Services Bryant Benson estimated that around 100 to 150 students have been quarantined at some point this year as a result of a positive case. Some of these students have had to repeat the quarantine process after being identified as a close contact multiple times. Dr. Benson said, “If there is a positive case within a dorm squad, all members of that dorm squad are considered close contacts if they are householding and will be quarantined in their dorm rooms.” If the positive test is not within a dorm squad, close contacts are housed at the Dewey, Chen [Health Center], or at the Deerfield Inn with the location quarantine being completely unrelated to other reasons such as the number of times a student has been quarantined.
During this year’s winter term, Deerfield started using the Annex of the Deerfield Inn to quarantine additional students. Dr. Benson explained that the purpose of utilizing this new space to quarantine students was to gain extra flexibility and capacity.
“It allows us to more appropriately onboard students who are late returning to campus, so that they do not occupy needed clinical space in the Chen or Dewey health centers,” Dr. Benson said.
In terms of keeping the Inn employees safe, Dr. Benson explained that Deerfield uses an independent contractor to clean the space and rooms after use so that the Inn’s employees do not have to clean the space. In addition, the Inn does not provide room service to the students housed in the Annex. According to Dr. Benson, the Inn’s one prerequisite for allowing the school to use the space was that COVID-19 positive students would not be housed there.
In order to support students quarantined in the health center, the nurses’ daily lives are mainly centered around students’ class schedules. “We need to get their meals to them, check vital signs, make sure that they’re comfortable, make sure that their wifi is working. These are daily occurrences,” Director of Nursing Katherine Rolland said. Rolland explained that mealtimes can get particularly busy because the health center tries to make sure that students are comfortable and happy by providing great takeout meals.
Sharing her own quarantine experience, Amelia Goetzke ’24 said, “The nurses were really nice and did their best to make us feel comfortable. They even said it was okay to have my friends come visit my window.”
Elena Lu ’22, who was quarantined three times, also shared her experience. “I did feel like it got better every time,” Lu said. “The first time, the PCR test took longer than we thought to come out, so it felt a lot harder being in isolation. By my third time in the Inn, it was actually pretty nice, since it was a nice room, and we got takeout almost every night.”
Like Lu, Evan Burkert ’21 was also required to quarantine on three occasions. Burkert said that, “The first time I was quarantined was hard, because it was on my birthday, and I was upset about spending my birthday not only away from friends but also in a room with four white walls.” Burkert felt, though, that over time her days spent in quarantine got progressively better. She said that, “The really nice thing is that we got takeout everynight in Dewey.” For her third time in quarantine, she said that being able to go to the Inn was more comfortable because of its hotel environment rather than in the clinical setting of Dewey.
Some co-curricular teams have been placed in isolation together. Burkert used her experience to share her tips with others for a successful quarantine stating, “The key to quarantine is to be positive throughout and to take it as a vacation, take it as a mental break rather than being bogged down by isolation.” Quarantining with teammates has served as a good bonding experience for some. “We were isolated, yet together — because we were all there, we made the decision to not be upset about our circumstances. As a group, it just brought us together, especially because the third time around, they let us walk as a big socially distanced group. When we finished quarantine, we returned with a new sense of purpose and spirit for sure,” Burkert said.
Ultimately, knowing that quarantining is important for the safety of everyone at Deerfield means that everyone on campus is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the community healthy.