Just days after freshman, Yazmine Garcia, arrived at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, she had to quarantine in her dorm room.
“I knew that there was going to be ‘enhanced social distancing,’” Garcia said. “When they told us about the quarantine I wasn't shocked, but it was something that I wasn't expecting.”
Putting Garcia’s dormitory of more than 150 people into a two-week lockdown was a precaution the school took after a student residing in the building tested positive for COVID-19 and administrators discovered that the college’s “enhanced social distancing” guidelines had not been followed.
Garcia said in some ways she’s enjoying the isolation. She came to Colorado Springs from Dallas and describes herself as a social butterfly from a close-knit Mexican-American family.
“At home, I would always be surrounded by people,” Garcia said. “So I never had ‘me time’ or alone time for me to just reflect, think new things that I wanted to do. ‘Cause at home, you know — responsibilities. But it's also been a little lonely, not gonna lie.”
Garcia said she had been able to make a few friends before being relegated to her single room. She’s staying in touch with them through video chat. She has daily digital meetups to exercise and do weight training with a fellow student.
“And since we're all living through the same crisis,” Garcia said. “We're connecting and bonding even more on that.”
Garcia is still optimistic about the prospects of her liberal arts education once the quarantine is over. She’s signed up for a choreography class.
“Because I was like, why not? Why can't I study choreography?” she said. “I might fall in love with it and that might be my career.”
Any dancing now for Garcia will have to be in a confined space. And she has reason to dance — she tested negative for COVID-19.
There have been no other confirmed positive cases on campus so far, although there hasn’t been comprehensive testing in Loomis Hall since the students’ arrivals, according to Miriam Brown, a senior and student reporter with the Colorado College COVID-19 Reporting Project. The project was funded by a grant from the college. Brown said the COVID-positive student had been removed from Loomis and was quarantining in a different location.
Arielle Gordon, Brown’s co-reporter, is also a senior at CC. She’s currently reporting on the crisis from her home in Maryland. She is about to start her school year remotely as well.
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She said that one of the main complaints she and Brown heard from students stuck in their rooms was about the summer heat. Loomis Hall doesn’t have air-conditioning and the box fans the college doled out were not a substitute for fresh air. So, she said, the college consulted with the El Paso County Public Health Department to devise safe guidelines for the dorm inhabitants to get outside at least once a day.
Garcia explained they are chaperoned by an RA, who leads them out single file “like ducks”. Once outside, they are relegated to small spray painted areas.
“I just sit for a few minutes and look at the mountains,” Garcia said. “That was the most exciting thing about coming to Colorado, the mountains and the landscape and all of that.”
She can’t see the mountains from her dorm room window.
Students can leave their rooms to get water or go to the bathroom — wearing masks, of course. Meals are delivered once a day by CC staff and volunteers donning full protective gear including N95 face masks, gloves and gowns.
“They knock on the door so that we know that their food is there,” Garcia said. “And then once a few minutes have passed, we can go outside and get our food. And we have a fridge in the room. So we get to save our food.”
Classes are set to begin on Monday while these students are still quarantined. A lot of coursework was already planned to be online and professors have been accommodating, Brown said.
Maggie Santos, the college’s director of campus safety and emergency management, told Gordon and Brown that if students can follow the college’s enhanced social distancing protocols, this won't have to happen again.
Several of the quarantined students Brown spoke with said they were “bummed” about being locked in for two weeks, but “no one was really angry or pointing fingers,” she said.
“They understand why it had to happen,” Brown said.
But at the same time, they wondered: “If this is how college starts, what else is going to happen?”
Colorado College holds the license for KRCC in Colorado Springs, which is a part of Colorado Public Radio.