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October 8, 2020

'I had a great support system': Student reflects on quarantine experience in SVSU apartment

DejohnWhen she got the call with orders to quarantine at her on-campus apartment at Saginaw Valley State University, Paige Dejohn initially felt frustrated by the prospect of spending so much time by herself. 
Looking back now — only days after her required quarantine period expired — the sophomore from Kimball, Michigan said she never felt alone. In fact, she was delighted that she made a few new friends because of her circumstances. 
“It was a good experience, even though the reasons I had the experience weren’t so good,” she said. 
One of Dejohn’s roommates tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, all four women in the four-bedroom residential housing unit were required to quarantine for two weeks until Tuesday, Oct. 6. 
Dejohn spent the duration of that quarantine period in the two-story apartment. The roommate who tested positive was moved to a different on-campus apartment, where she was separated from others. The other two women left campus to live with family during their quarantine period. 
Dejohn spent her two weeks alone attending classes via her laptop, playing video games with her family remotely, cooking meals, streaming shows on Netflix, tending to a plant, and enjoying the company of SVSU staff members who checked on her regularly over the phone. 
She said she likely enjoyed the quarantine more than her peers at other colleges, where some students have reported a lack of assistance from staff coupled with intense feelings of isolation. 
“I had a great support system of people here at SVSU,” Dejohn said. “I missed being able to see people, but I also met people I wouldn’t have otherwise met.” 
Dejohn never felt completely alone without her human roommates. She spoke regularly with SVSU Residential Life staff members, and she also was kept company by the contact tracing staff member assigned to the case, Moregan LaMarr, a two-time SVSU alumna. LaMarr is one of SVSU’s contact tracers; her duties involve mapping human exposure to the COVID-19 virus within the university community while offering mental health support to people who need it. 
“She was super sweet and relatable,” Dejohn said of LaMarr. “When she checked in with me, I thought we would only be on the phone for a short time, but then 25 minutes would go by. She brightened up my days.” 
LaMarr and SVSU staff monitored Dejohn from afar. She was instructed how to recognize potential symptoms. Daily, she took her own body temperature. 
“I was always at 98.3, which is normal,” said Dejohn, who never experienced symptoms during the quarantine period and was not tested for the virus. 
Dejohn never stepped beyond the front and back entrances outside her apartment, which is part of SVSU’s nationally-renowned student housing facilities. The rare times she opened her doors happened either when she picked up the food and supplies SVSU staff left on her welcome mat or when she placed the celosia plant outside the apartment’s back entrance to collect sunlight and air. 
While isolating, Dejohn ordered fresh food from SVSU’s Dining Services delivered to her front door. Her go-to food item was a plate featuring delivered fried rice and broccoli mixed with jasmine rice she kept stored in a kitchen cabinet. 
Other SVSU offices provided her arts and craft supplies that kept her busy. For instance, she built a stuffed bear during the quarantine using materials provided to her. 
Dejohn also spoke regularly with family members over the phone. A few members of that family played video games with her from afar. A Nintendo Switch owner, Dejohn teamed up with an uncle in Germany and an aunt in Illinois as they together navigated the survival thriller, “Dead By Daylight.” Her boyfriend in the region also occasionally joined the games remotely.
Dejohn watched plenty of Netflix and YouTube during her time alone, including many episodes of “The Walking Dead.” 
After the quarantine period ended late Tuesday, her three roommates returned. 
“It felt good for the quarantine to be over,” Dejohn said. “I said to myself, ‘I want to go get myself some Panda Express and do all the laundry that’s been building up in here.’” 
And she did. Dejohn woke up early Wednesday and filled three washing machines with clothes and blankets that piled up over the 2-week span. 
“When I was there, a few of my neighbors walked in to do their laundry,” Dejohn said. “It was nice to see people. I missed being able to say, ‘Hi.’”