When your roommate tests positive: Life in Northeastern’s quarantine housing

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Photo courtesy Hannah Kelly

Hannah Kelly's desk in International Village with some of the supplies she was given for quarantine.

Hannah Kelly, as told to Deanna Schwartz

The Huntington News is documenting and sharing the experiences of Northeastern students, faculty and staff who test positive for the coronavirus or are in quarantine. 

The following is an account from Hannah Kelly, a second-year cell and molecular biology major whose roommate tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, Aug. 30. Kelly was moved into wellness housing, Northeastern’s on-campus housing for students who need to isolate or quarantine, on Monday, Aug. 31.

If you would like to share your experience, email [email protected]


The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity. 

My three roommates and I moved into Willis Hall on Sunday. We all got tested before we moved in and we wore masks, even in our own apartment until we got our first negative results. But, my direct roommate actually got a positive result. She ended up being the only person Sunday to get a positive result. She wasn’t symptomatic at all, so it was a complete surprise. She even got tested a week before her move-in day at home in Pennsylvania.

They stopped her in the Willis lobby Monday afternoon. She wasn’t allowed to go upstairs — they put an alarm on her Husky Card. They told her that she tested positive, and she had to go upstairs, get her stuff and head to isolation housing in International Village, or IV, straightaway. 

I got a call an hour later. 

The call came from a Boston number, and they said, “We believe you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. You will be needing to quarantine. There will be an email sent out to you, but we wanted to reach out to you via phone, and you should bring things that you will think you need for 14 days.” The only thing he really recommended was to bring a pillow, but I probably should have brought more. 

Hannah Kelly’s bed in IV with the provided bedding. (Photo courtesy Hannah Kelly)

The other two girls in the same suite as us got a call about two hours later. We were only in Willis for about 24 hours before having to move into IV. During that time, we strictly followed the quarantine and stayed in our rooms.

I’m in an IV single on the west side with a bathroom in it. It’s the adjoining singles, but no one is on the other side. My roommate is also in IV. She’s on a different floor than me and the other two girls we live with. But we’re not allowed to go outside and see each other, we’re supposed to stay strictly in our rooms. 

They provided us with bedding, but it’s not nice at all. They don’t really give us blankets, they give us those thin sheets to put over the bed. I recommend people going to wellness housing bring a pillow and a blanket, because they don’t give you either. They told me to bring a pillow, but my roommate who tested positive did not bring one, so she’s going to be here for 10 days without a pillow. They didn’t provide us with any towels and they didn’t advise us to bring them. Since my other two roommates came later, we asked them to drop stuff off in front of our door for us.

The number that called me to inform me that I was moving into quarantine is available 24/7. So, we’re able to call that number if we ever need anything and they can get it for us. So that’s really useful. But I think it’s a little slow because my friend asked for a pillow and it’s been a few hours, maybe a whole day. 

They have a microwave and mini fridge in here, which would have been nice to know because I only brought dry snacks. But you can bring popcorn if you want to microwave it, or anything you can keep in the fridge or freezer too. 

They’re very clearly still figuring out the food system because yesterday we had a lot of issues with it. They send out an email with a link to a Google Form, and on that form, you click the day that you need food. You select food for the following days’ dinner and then breakfast and lunch for the day after that. In the afternoon, they deliver that night’s dinner and the next day’s breakfast and lunch.

Hannah Kelly’s Tuesday night dinner of beef and sweet potatoes. (Photo courtesy Hannah Kelly)

You have to fill out the form far in advance to get it. So, I ordered Wednesday’s dinner and Thursday’s breakfast and lunch on Tuesday. So for Monday I was supposed to request my meals on Sunday, but since I didn’t know I would be here Sunday, I had to wait a very long time to get my dinner Monday night and Tuesday’s breakfast and lunch. On the first night, that can be a little discouraging. My roommate is actually vegetarian, and since they didn’t really have that figured out yet, they gave her chicken. She just had one of the ramen packages that they gave us.

The food is basically the same as dining hall quality. I’m pretty sure they just get it from IV. Monday night I had chicken, rice pilaf, potatoes and broccoli, and it was pretty good. They gave us some snacks, none of them really good. They also gave us disinfectant supplies and hand sanitizer. 

There are no deliveries allowed. You can’t get any outdoor food or stuff like that, but also your parents can’t send you packages. We’ve been trying to fight them on that, but they won’t allow it for some reason.

I got tested again Tuesday at 2:30, at the symptomatic testing center to the right of Marino Recreation Center. They let me leave to walk to Marino. There were only three people in there, and they were the people running it. When I got the actual test, it was in a room with a person who did the swab for me. She was wearing a mask, a face shield and scrubs. I felt very comfortable there. I was really worried before about going to a place where only positive people were because I have not been confirmed to be positive, but it wasn’t really that intimidating and it wasn’t busy. 

When you’re in quarantine, you only get tested on the 10th day. I moved into quarantine Monday, but I got my test Tuesday just because I already had my day three test scheduled. My results from Tuesday’s test were negative, but I still have to remain in quarantine for 14 days.

Being here sucks, but I’m more of an introvert, so I’ve been kind of okay with it. Since the four of us are really close friends and since we’re all in the same situation we’ve just been FaceTiming each other. I’ve been able to keep myself busy because I brought paint and I have to study for classes before they even start. It’s not that bad. But of course, everybody is acting differently. It affects some people more than others.

My advice for anyone who has to move into wellness housing is to take your time to pack, because it can be super overwhelming. Make a list of what you should bring. Bring comfy clothes, comfy bedding, pillows, towels, anything you need for the shower. I also recommended bringing a fan because during the day, it was kind of hot. And also something to do during the day, like entertainment and obviously school supplies. Also bring snacks and maybe one or two utensils, like a bowl or cup, because the only thing I’m given are two paper little bowls. 

Don’t be afraid to pack too much. You’re going to be here for 14 days and you can’t go back. So if you have a feeling that you might need something, I would just say bring it. I was so overwhelmed that I just grabbed as much as I could and left. I just was like, “Oh God, I need to go.” We got a decent amount of time, like one or two hours to get prepared. 

I wish they had communicated with us better. Not knowing what we were going to be put into, what the situation was going to be like, what we needed to bring — I think that’s the real issue. No one called me for contact tracing, but they called my roommate who tested positive. I’d advise anyone to do their own contact tracing because they just didn’t ask me. It’s really important to let people know, so we told our families. 

When I told my mom, she was like, “Oh God, are you okay?” I think she’s most upset with just how quickly it happened and how I didn’t even get the supplies I needed, like I don’t have any Advil if my head hurts. And also just the fact that I have to test at Marino, which is where positive people go. My dad is just frustrated. He’s like, “Are you kidding? This happened already?”

I wanted Northeastern to reopen and I’m glad it is, even though I’m in quarantine, but I understand all the risks behind it. I think out of every school, we’re probably the most prepared. I feel like a lot of schools may be sent home soon, but I think Northeastern has done a pretty good job of testing and maintaining it. They put the four of us in wellness housing immediately when they found out. 

It was unavoidable. My roommate got it within a week between being tested at home and being tested at Northeastern. Even for people who are just arriving on campus and did get tested before, they should still adhere to all the guidelines and wear masks with their roommates. I think it’s the best way to really help prevent the spread.