Students describe adverse effects to productivity, mental health during quarantine

Ellie Detert, Contributing Reporter

At the onset of the spring 2021 semester, Tulane quarantine policies for contact-traced students changed from 14 days to a seven-day quarantine stay at the Hyatt Regency. Students are shuttled to the Hyatt downtown and are placed in individual rooms for the duration of their stay. Three meals are distributed to students throughout the day, alongside the ability to order food to the Hyatt using restaurant delivery via Grubhub, Uber Eats and other distribution services. While individuals are not allowed to see one another, they may wear a mask and walk through the halls to get exercise and a change of scenery. 

Currently, Tulane is at action alert level yellow, with only 46 current active cases and a 0.7% positive testing rate. Only 29 Tulane students are currently residing at the Hyatt. This is a strong downward trend from the end of January, where Tulane’s campus had an outbreak of over 200 positive cases in one weekend. Despite the Tulane administration’s best efforts to make student quarantining safe and bearable, many students struggle to cope while passing their mandatory time at the Hyatt. 

The worst part about being in the Hyatt is the inability to go outside,” Ella Galaty, a freshman student who has now quarantined three times at the Hyatt, said. “Although I had access to the pool deck during my first quarantine, the latter two were spent in the confinement of my room.”

For many people, being stuck within the same four walls without fresh air for a week or more can be very detrimental to mental health. “My mental health worsened,” freshman Jillian Parish said. “I felt lonely,” 

For students who have contracted COVID-19, Paterson Residence Hall is used for the 10-day mandatory isolation period. These students are paired with a roommate, allowed outside and are able to interact with other isolated individuals. 

“The living conditions were not very comfortable, but having a balcony really improved my experience because I could talk to friends from afar and get some sun,” Hannah Merwin, an undergraduate student who recently isolated in Paterson, said. 

People in both Paterson and the Hyatt alike, though, struggle with classwork and productivity. Many students who contract COVID-19 become very sick and struggle to attend classes and get work done by their deadlines. Others feel unmotivated to do work because of the difficult living situations and impacts on their mental health. 

“Some teachers gave me extensions, but it did not really help because it would only be a few days and I was still experiencing severe headaches,” student Anna Johnson said. “Some teachers I had to beg for extensions.” 

Tulane protocol calls for academic leniency and compromise during this time, but students have described many professors making quarantine and isolation more stressful. 

While time for students in isolation can seem daunting, being mentally prepared and open to the experience can help relieve concerns about this time. 

“I learned to use this time to get caught up on work, dive into my passions (reading, yoga, drawing), and slow down from the busy-ness of being a college student at a rigorous university,” Galaty said.