A firsthand look at Alabama’s COVID quarantine policy
By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Jas Orr
As the omicron variant continues to sweep Alabama, the University of Alabama continues to take precautions against the virus. After testing positive for COVID-19, I experienced these policies first hand.
For me, it started with a sore throat. I didn’t think much of it, honestly. The humidity was low that Sunday, so I assumed the dry air was just getting to me. Then the cough came, and then the body aches and fever. My roommate found a rapid test at Target ($9), and sure enough, the test came back positive. My heart sank.
After I emailed all of my professors and called the university’s COVID-19 hotline, I was told to pack some bags and get ready to move into isolation housing. This was odd to me, as I was one of the 500 or so students displaced from University Housing to an off campus apartment (The Lofts at City Center) at the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester. For the regular tenant of The Lofts, they would be instructed to quarantine in place and stay off campus. But, alas, since I was through UA Housing, I was to be shuffled into a Crimson Ride van to be whisked away to on-campus isolation housing.
The van felt vaguely apocalyptic, with a clear shower curtain separating the drive from the rest of the van and yellow caution tape adorning every seat except the very back row. Suddenly, I was no longer a person, but a health hazard.
Still, it’s not like I can blame them. I had a disease, and that was something to be abundantly cautious around.
The Crimson Ride van dropped me off in front of an old sorority house, and waved me inside. I shuffled in, carrying my suitcase up the well worn brick stairs. Opening the door, I was greeted by an almost empty room, with a single desk to my left and a set of stairs. At the desk, I was greeted by a desk attendant. She handed me my room key and explained the dinner protocol: food would arrive in the evening, with one hot meal for dinner and cold meals for lunch and breakfast the next day.
I heaved my suitcase upstairs and quickly found my room. Only two other people were in my hallway. I was fortunate to receive a room on the end of the hall, which was just ever so slightly bigger. In my room, I found a small bag of snacks and necessities, including tissues, dish soap and a digital thermometer. I settled into the room and did my best to make it as cozy as possible while I couldn’t be at home.
Thus began my quarantine routine, which primarily consisted of sleeping and coughing.
On one hand, I have to admit that isolation housing was convenient. I didn’t have to go further than downstairs to receive free food, water and Powerade, and I had a doctor check on me daily to monitor my symptoms. I was away from classes, and didn’t have to go anywhere. I could sleep and recover in peace.
And on the other hand, isolation housing was miserable. Being sick is never fun, but being sick in an uncomfortable bed with too-big sheets (I had to supply my own twin size sheets, which I do not own), mediocre at best food, and a walk to a communal bathroom is a nightmare. Yes, a communal bathroom. This baffled me, as I was used to the luxury of a private bathroom, and though I was already sick, the concept of showering around other sick people seemed disgusting.
The food, too, was not great. It was provided by Bama Dining, and I knew I was going to be disappointed when I opened my soggy to-go box to reveal the greyest meat I’ve ever seen. My daily lunch was sandwiches, which was fine. Breakfast was somewhat baffling: two hard boiled eggs, a bottle of milk, yogurt and a random pre-packaged pastry (the muffins were good, but the cheese danishes were questionable).
After five days of this, I was called and told that I was cleared to leave, provided that, for the following five days, I would do what they called “enhanced masking,” or, in regular terms, double masking. Part of me, the part that wanted good food and my own bathroom, was thrilled about this, but the other part of me, the more logical side, was worried about this. Most of my symptoms were gone, but I still had a slight, but persistent, cough. So, I left with an abundance of caution.
All in all, the university’s COVID policies did a decent job of keeping me away from society as a whole. The process was fairly easy to follow, and my needs were taken care of pretty much every step of the way. But, it certainly was not without flaw- both the food and housing conditions were sub-par.