The inside of a quarantine room in Lawrence Tower.

On-campus residents who test positive or come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 must quarantine in one of three quarantine dorms, including Lawrence Tower, and days in quarantine can fall into a repetitive routine. Credit: Courtesy of Ricky Pinney

“Today I had an 8 a.m., so I woke up, walked 2 feet to my computer, sat down for the lecture, and then after that I just went back to my bed. Then I went back to my computer to do some work. And I can’t imagine my schedule will be anything more than just me getting up and sitting at my desk.”

Ricky Pinney, a second-year in health sciences, is expecting to perform that repetitive routine for another week after he received a call from a contact tracer Aug. 24 telling him someone he met on his residence hall floor the day he moved in tested positive for COVID-19. He had to go into quarantine and move to Lawrence Tower.

“Everyone that we talked to had been tested, but not everyone that we had talked to had waited until their test results came back,” Pinney said.

After one week in quarantine with self-described symptoms of a minor headache and some nasal congestion, Pinney has a bedroom and bathroom in Lawrence Tower to himself. His day-to-day interactions include deliveries of food, toiletries and other necessities and receiving texts from university employees checking whether and how his symptoms are progressing.

The meals provided to students in quarantine housing

Food is delivered to students in quarantine housing every other day and includes a couple gallons of water, salads, microwavable meals, chips, cereal, oatmeal, protein bars and fruit. Credit: Courtesy of Ricky Pinney

Lawrence Tower is one of three designated buildings for COVID-19-related quarantine and isolation housing, the other two being Barrett House and Houck House. According to the Office of Student Life website, students must quarantine if they come into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 or if they traveled to a state that has a testing positivity rate of 15 percent or higher. Students are required to isolate if they test positive for COVID-19.

Emma Hyden, a first-year in political science, is also in Lawrence Tower. After arriving at Lawrence Tower to quarantine due to being exposed to COVID-19, Hyden tested positive and was instructed to isolate in the same room. Although the university allows students who must quarantine or isolate to do so at their permanent residences, Hyden said that wasn’t practical for her.

“I’m from Texas, so there really wasn’t a way for me to get home. So I had until the end of that day to figure out how to get all of my stuff from Smith-Steeb to Lawrence,” Hyden said.

She said the university provided her with sheets, towels, some toiletries and two pillows that she described as “disposable” looking. Both she and Pinney decided to bring their own pillows.

The towels and other linens provided for students in quarantine housing.

The university provides students in quarantine housing with sheets, towels, pillows and other toiletries. Credit: Courtesy of Ricky Pinney

Despite their pillow preferences, Hyden and Pinney were impressed by the amount of food provided. Pinney said food is delivered every other day and includes a couple gallons of water, salads, microwavable meals, chips, cereal, oatmeal, protein bars and fruit.

Although access to classes is easy because of Zoom, Hyden said the loneliness that accompanies quarantine is taking its toll, especially during her first week of college.

“I’m still just trying to get used to the college workload as a first-year in general with all of the stress of potentially having COVID,” Hyden, who should be done with quarantine Saturday, said. “I don’t know, I think I’m almost more stressed about just handling school in general than I am about being quarantined.”

She said that being in the same room for days “is not going to be good” for her mental state. Pinney, who is slated to be released Sept. 7, said he is also lonely living in Lawrence Tower.

“You can FaceTime people and you can talk to them over the phone, but it’s really not the same as normal human interaction,” Pinney said. “The hardest thought going forward is kind of just the realization that I’m going to be stuck in this enclosed space.”