For many that remember the process last year, students who tested positive for COVID-19 could isolate themselves in the Conference Center or as many students may know it, the old Charles F. Dolan School of Business building.
Students who were contact-traced and tested negative could stay at nearby hotels — paid for by the University — for the duration of their quarantine.
This is no longer the case.
On July 29, an email was sent out from the Office of the Dean of Students regarding plans for quarantine and isolation procedures this year.
The University made it clear that it will, “not be offering Isolation or Quarantine Housing during the semester.”
The email continued by prompting students to derive a plan of action over the summer with family or nearby friends who may need to help shelter them over the 10 days of quarantine.
Although a few are still not open, 64 single rooms are still being offered in the Conference Center in case of emergency for those on campus who need a night to stay before finding somewhere else to go, or for students unable to quarantine off campus.
For the students who need to spend all 10 days in the Conference Center, every subsequent day past the first 24 hours will cost $200 each.
To finish out all 10-days in the Conference Center, it may cost up to $1,800.
Luckily, at this moment, less than 10 students this semester have been placed in emergency housing and it was only for a limited period of time.
Christina Hill, director of the Office of Conference and Event Management, spoke about the quarantine/isolation housing situation for the year. “The requirements for quarantine have changed since last year,” she begins. “If you are vaccinated, you need to be quarantined if you contract COVID-19. If a vaccinated student is contact-traced, they only need to go for tests and wear a mask at all times until the results come back.”
Unvaccinated students will be put into the 10-day quarantine period whether they test positive or are simply contact-traced. The University has continued to remain in compliance with the new findings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hill continues, “If an outbreak occurs on campus, we would not be able to accommodate all students that want housing.”
The Conference Center housing is mainly for those students who are far from home, not for the majority of the school who come from the northeastern area of the country, and are within a drivable distance.
Hill stated, “It’s my understanding from the Health Center that if you’re in need of isolation or quarantine you should not take public transportation.”
According to last year’s Fairfield yearly Fact Book that is published by the school, roughly 300 students come from areas far enough away that getting home without using public transport might be difficult. Although the numbers for this year have not been published, the growing student population every year suggests that the number may be even higher.
Two such students, who both live on the west coast, Megan Caro ‘24 and Leif Alino ‘24 gave their input on how they felt after learning about the new daily fee.
Megan said she felt like it was a “slap in the face,” and goes on to explain that she has no family on the east coast.
“Many can quarantine at home for free, but I will have to pay the fee or stay at a hotel.”
As a student all the way from Washington, she feels that Fairfield should commit to her as much as she committed to them by going to a school so far away from home.
Leif, who comes all the way from California, also voiced his frustration. He mentioned he was vaccinated and thus stated, “Why should I have to pay for something that’s not my fault? I can do everything right and still get COVID and be left with no other options.”
Even moreso, this new cost raises concerns for international students.
International student Kostiantyn Kaldaras ‘22 is currently staying at the Conference Center in one of the isolation rooms after testing positive for COVID. He said that he was made aware of the $200 a night fee when he was being moved into his isolation room.
“Since I am an international student, the school usually waives the living cost over breaks and similar occasions, so I wrote to the dean asking to waive the fees, but I haven’t gotten a response yet,” Kaldaras said. “I can’t really pay to stay here since I can’t afford to pay $200 every day and I can not stay anywhere else since my closest home is Michigan.”
Hill maintained that, “the $200 rate is for everyone and requests for financial assistance will be considered on a case by case basis.”
Kaldaras said that he does “not think it is fair to charge students who have COVID to stay on campus, no matter how far away they live” and believes that “students should be able to stay on campus for quarantine if they choose to.”
“Students already pay fees to live on campus and I don’t see the difference in staying in your assigned dorm with roommates or in the Conference Center by yourself,” Kaldaras said. “I also believe students should not be forced to go home if they have COVID, they would just be putting more people at risk by moving from place to place.”
Kaldaras stated that he feels the University “should give students the [option] to either go home or let them stay on campus if they already have some sort of on-campus housing.”
He continued to say that “I understand that there might be a problem finding room for the exposed students if there are too many.”
But he ended with, “once there is no room for exposed people on campus, I believe it would be fair to start sending them home.”
Maeve Foley ‘23 tested positive for COVID-19 last school year and utilized one of the school-provided isolation rooms during her quarantine.
Foley explained that after finding out she tested positive, she “was extremely stressed and overwhelmed.” She was “going to be sick, alone, missing class and was very worried about how to handle it.”
She stayed in one of the isolation rooms on campus, so she would not go home and expose her family to the virus, and says that she “cannot imagine having to worry about a financial burden on top of everything else going on at that time.”
“Having to pay for quarantine housing would definitely have made me contemplate going home, risking giving my parents and siblings COVID,” Foley said. “I don’t think having to worry about paying for quarantine housing should be a concern on top of everything else some would be going through at that time.”