In partnership with Cats v. Covid, The Student conducted a series of confidential interviews with students who contracted COVID-19 while living at Bates. Together they serve as a memoir of life at Bates during the pandemic.
Coincidentally, each of the participants contracted COVID-19 during the months of March and early April. All but one of eight contracted COVID-19 during or in close proximity to the campus-wide lockdown that was instituted on April 1.
Each of the interviews are in chronological order of when the participant contracted COVID-19 and they are formatted in question and answer style.
The Student and Cats v. Covid hopes to validate each of the participants’ experiences with COVID-19 as well as encourage students to get vaccinated. We also hope to remind the Bates community of our resilience during a year that can be considered one of the hardest in the college’s history.
When did you contract COVID-19?
Participant #1: I contracted COVID-19 in the first week of March 2021 while living on campus. March 3 was the date of the positive test.
Participant #2: March 27 was the date I was exposed to Covid and I tested positive on April 1.
Participant #3: March 31 was the day I took the test and I got the call on April 1, which was, unfortunately, not an April fools joke.
Participant #4: April 1 is the date roughly.
Participant #5: March 31 was the day of the test, and April 1 was the day of the subsequent call. I most likely contracted it while at practice.
Participant #6: I contracted Covid around April 1 of this year.
Participant #7: I contracted Covid while living at Bates on April 3.
Participant #8: Beginning of April during the campus outbreak. I moved to isolation housing on Tuesday, April 6. I was on campus at Bates, but I had not been contact traced previously and had been following the quarantine guidelines of the college that were already in place when I tested positive. I have been very careful this entire time and no one I’m close with ever tested positive, so I was very perplexed by how I got it.
What was it like living in a Bates isolation house?
Participant #1: Living in an isolation house was nice for resting as it was really quiet, but it was really lonely for me. When I was in isolation, I was the only person in the entire house.
Participant #2: [It was a] great experience because several of my friends were there. The only negative was by the time food was delivered, it was cold.
Participant #3: Bates did a really good job taking care of us and living with other people really helped.
Participant #4: Isolation was nice because the entire campus was in lockdown, so I knew I wasn’t missing out. I was also in a much nicer living space than my normal dorm room.
Participant #5: So luckily — well not luckily — most of my teammates tested positive at the same time so I was able to live in an apartment with three other teammates of mine. It was kind of weird because suddenly we didn’t have to wear masks around each other and the house was stalked with a lot of food. We were told, “you are going to be in this house for ten days, but you can do whatever as long as you stay here.” We mostly just watched movies and hung out. It was interesting, different than what I thought it would be like. It was like a staycation … It didn’t really hit us until day six or day seven that we had been stuck in the same house because with the modular system, we had all been under a lot of stress. It was nice staying in one place for a little bit longer and not being pressured to go to practice or go to all these classes. We could just stay in our rooms and relax for a bit. It was especially nice after finals.
Participant #6: It was an interesting experience living in isolation housing. I was moved to a building with three other students who contracted COVID-19, and we lived in the two-bedroom house together for ten days. We weren’t allowed to leave the property so we would sit outside on the front steps to get fresh air. All our food was delivered to us by Bates dining, as was medication and other things we needed. We all had to finish up finals and start the new semester from isolation housing, so we were all a bit stressed at different points. But it was nice to be around other people and we would watch movies and eat dinner together.
Participant #7: Living in isolation was definitely something I have never experienced before. After the first few days, the concept of time becomes strangely warmed and the days become indistinguishable from each other, making time feel like it’s moving faster. My sense of purpose felt depleted and I found motivating myself to be incredibly difficult. It was truly a surreal experience, especially when I moved out and ‘rejoined society.’ I felt like I lost some of my social skills, and it took time to adjust to interaction with people again.
Participant #8: I was in Clason. It was very noisy for quite a few nights until more people started to recover and left. I was surprised that so few people were actually wearing masks in the house when they left their rooms. Also, we were told to stay in our rooms some afternoons because people would be coming to clean the bathrooms and common space, but this did not always actually happen and the trash piled up. It was not the easiest place to get the rest I needed to recover, but I eventually adjusted.
Were you symptomatic or asymptomatic? If you were symptomatic, what symptoms did you experience?
Participant #1: I was a symptomatic case. To start, I had a headache, then I had a lack of appetite and nausea for a few days along with difficulty focusing and fatigue. For a few days, I had to take a nap immediately after my online classes.
Participant #2: I was almost completely asymptomatic. Minor fatigue and congestion only.
Participant #3: I lost taste and smell, I had a fever for two days, body aches, a sore throat, and a stuffy nose.
Participant #4: Mostly asymptomatic, but I did have a slight fever and chills the first few days I was sick.
Participant #5: I had a sore throat and a light cough leading up to when I tested positive, but I was told it could be a cold. I talked to the Bates medical experts and thought I might have been asymptomatic with a cold instead of Covid symptoms because my cough was unrelated to my catching of Covid.
Participant #6: I was symptomatic. I became really lethargic, had a really bad headache, and a cough. I also lost my sense of taste and smell. My sense of smell is still diminished and is slowly coming back, and I still have a cough sometimes, especially after really tough exercise. The worst part was honestly feeling really tired and run down, like I had no energy.
Participant #7: I was completely asymptomatic, which made the experience almost weirder.
Participant #8: I was symptomatic. My main symptoms were a persistent cough and a fever, along with the symptoms commonly associated with a fever. The cough lasted longer than ten days. However, the fever lasted for around ten days and was not always present. I also was fatigued and became short of breath more easily, but after ten days those symptoms improved. I lost my smell as well, and that has taken longer to come back, but could also be allergy-related.
How do you think COVID-19 has impacted your overall health and wellbeing?
Participant #1: Overall Covid hasn’t had any lasting impacts on my health or wellbeing, but I did really struggle with the lack of contact I had with friends and family while I was sick.
Participant #2: I think it has had more of an impact stress-wise than anything else.
Participant #3: Being an athlete it was hard to come back from Covid compared to other illnesses and I still feel the effects of it when working out, although they are getting better. However, I am very grateful that this so far is the only outstanding complication from Covid.
Participant #4: I did not have any lasting effects from Covid.
Participant #5: I think I did experience some issues returning to a full workload. I definitely had issues with brain fog, but that could have been because this has been an academically stressful year. Physical health-wise, I have had no problems. I was cleared a couple of days after I got out of isolation to return to my full practice schedule. Besides a slightly raised blood pressure, I personally have had no lasting health effects. I did notice that breathing at practice became slightly harder.
Participant #6: I think my lungs are still recovering, and hopefully I will be back to smelling things normally again. But it really affected my mental health. The guilt I felt for contracting Covid and the gut-wrenching guilty feeling that I’ve let down the people around me is something that I am just now getting over.
Participant #7: The actual sickness part of Covid did not impact my wellbeing too much, but isolation was definitely difficult. In hindsight, the time in isolation flew by, but in the moment, the monotony of the days and separation from socialization took a toll on my mental health.
Participant #8: I was able to recover, so going forward I do not anticipate Covid continuing to impact my overall health. However, it was difficult for a few days, especially mentally. Needing to pack up my room and move over to isolation required an adjustment. I had to get used to being in a new setting and learn to live with others who had different expectations for isolation housing than I did. It was not easy and towards the end of isolation, I wanted to go back to my dorm room to finish my recovery. I think did well overall, but I had to keep a positive frame of mind in order to not stress about the unknown and uncontrollable.
What was the most difficult part about contracting Covid?
Participant #1: The most difficult part for me was worrying about whether my two close contacts would get sick or not. I was really concerned they would get sicker than me.
Participant #2: Training for my sport was rough as I had to fit all of my training in right before my first competition.
Participant #3: Not being able to exercise or be active was really difficult being an athlete and an active person. It was also difficult to know how serious Covid is and how different people’s reactions are to it, because it seemed like a shot in the dark of what the outcome would be.
Participant #4: Being stuck inside, especially when the weather was nice out, was always a bit depressing.
Participant #5: The most difficult part was when I got the call I was Covid positive because I got the call at 9:00 a.m. and I didn’t move into isolation housing for another three hours. The people on the call introduced themselves as the Bates Covid contact tracers so I originally thought I was contact traced, so it came as a shock to me when they told me I was positive. I told my roommate, my boyfriend, my friends, and while I was sitting in my room waiting to move to isolation, everyone was outside talking about me. It was horrible. It was a little annoying that I wasn’t moved for three hours, but I know they were not ready for the overload of cases that day. There were also limited hours you could call Bates employees for help with anything you needed.
Participant #6: That I could possibly have given it to someone else. Thankfully, no one I contact traced contracted Covid, but the constant worry and stress over whether they will get sick were mentally tough to deal with. I also think that on one hand, it’s a virus that you can get sick with, but there are also social issues that you have to deal with.
Participant #7: Being stuck in an undecorated, small room alone with very minimal human interaction for ten days.
Participant #8: For me, it was needing to be sick in an environment that was new and where I could not always get the peace and quiet that I hoped for.
What would you tell a student who did not want the COVID vaccine?
Participant #1: I contracted Covid without having any known exposure to an active case, only seeing two people and washing my hands all the time. Even being extremely careful didn’t prevent me from contracting Covid. Getting the vaccine combined with safe practices could do that.
Participant #2: The risk to reward ratio is great. There really is no reason to not get it, and the more people that get it, the more freedom we are going to have in the fall.
Participant #3: Luckily enough I was okay after Covid, but over half a million people in the U.S. were not and passed away. Bates has a community of people that are high risk for contracting a more serious case, such as faculty and staff. Bates is an incredibly caring community and staff and faculty have worked very hard for us to be back this year. It is our job to thank them by getting vaccinated.
Participant #4: While most college students who get Covid do not get very sick, there are plenty of others who can. Moreover, there are some people who are unable to get the vaccine due to health reasons. Overall, there are no downsides to getting the vaccine, but there are lots of positives.
Participant #5: People who don’t get the vaccine are the kind of people who don’t want to work on the group project. ‘I don’t want to put the work into it if someone else can do it for me.’ It’s selfish, the people who don’t want to help out.
Participant #6: Get it. It sucks to be sick, after hard exercise it feels like there is glass in my lungs. But also, you should be getting it to protect the people around you. It’s honestly one of the most selfish things you could do to not get the vaccine that is being readily handed out to you.
Participant #7: There is no reason not to. Returning to normalcy is incredibly important for everyone’s physical and mental health, and the only way that happens is if everyone gets vaccinated. It’s incredibly selfish not to.
Participant #8: The vaccine helps to significantly decrease your chances of getting this virus and giving it to others that you care about. The vaccine might have side effects, but I believe it is a small price to pay in order to help stop this deadly virus. We all have to do our part to get things back to as close to normal as possible.
Editor’s Note: Each of the participants’ responses has been edited for clarity.