'I Was Kind of Expecting It': CU Boulder Students Reflect On Their COVID-19 Diagnoses
Administrators with the University of Colorado at Boulder have rolled out a series of changes in recent weeks to curb an alarming number of COVID-19 cases among students.
Chancellor Phil DiStefano announced Monday all classes will be moving to remote instruction for at least two weeks. This comes after CU placed all students on a mandatory two-week self-quarantine last week in collaboration with Boulder County Public Health.
Since the first week of school, the university has reported 859 cases with 474 in the last week.
CU Boulder sophomores Adacia Solomon and Taylor Stranberg both tested positive for COVID-19 in early September. They joined KUNC’s Colorado Edition to reflect on the experience.
These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Amanda Andrews: University officials announced this week that they’re moving classes to remote instruction for the next two weeks. What was your initial reaction to that news?
Taylor Stranberg: I wasn’t really surprised. I knew that even over summer, that all universities and schools, even elementary schools would be completely remote. Even before I got to Boulder, I hadn’t had any in-person classes. I know the majority of my friends haven’t either. Hopefully it hasn’t been too big a shift for everyone. I think they really tried to have very minimal in-person classes. The only people that really did were the freshmen, and they only had one or two. So, I feel it hasn’t been as big a shock because they started with it mainly being remote already.
Adacia Solomon: I didn’t have any classes that were in person at all. So it hasn’t really changed anything for me either.
You both tested positive for COVID-19 early in the semester. Could you tell me about when you first found out you were sick?
Solomon: I woke up one morning and I had a slight cough. I wasn’t feeling 100%, so I was like l should get tested just to be safe. I went and got tested and the next day I ended up being positive. I notified my close friends, the couple people I had been around, to get tested. It wasn’t a huge deal. Coming into college I knew there was a higher chance living in a college town, especially working at my job, I knew there was a chance for exposure. So it wasn’t a huge deal for me.
Stranberg: I agree. I got tested because Adacia is my close friend. So when she got tested I knew, obviously, I should too. I had the same mindset as her. I wasn’t working in a place that had high contact, but I live in a sorority house with 60 girls. We’ve been really safe. Everyone wears their masks inside, we clean and sanitize constantly throughout the day, but I just knew there was a higher chance of getting it than living in my house with my family members. I wasn't really surprised. I was kind of expecting it to happen. Living in a college town, there's a larger chance for exposure with people coming from all different places and states. It wasn’t too bad. I quarantined immediately. We got to quarantine together, so it was good.
Adacia, what happened at your job after you found out you were sick?
Solomon: I work at a mostly to-go restaurant. People are constantly coming in and out picking up orders. I come in contact with a lot of drivers for Doordash and all of those things. I was kind of waiting for it to happen in that sense. I just texted my boss, "I feel a little sick. I got tested. I’ll let you know tomorrow." He was like okay, great. Once I got tested, him and his family members got tested. I’m pretty sure everything was okay. We all wear our masks the whole shift.
For both of you, did CU provide any support once you tested positive for COVID-19?
Solomon: I wasn't tested through CU. I was tested through my doctors office. Really CU didn’t have a part in my case at all. I don’t have any in-person classes so I wasn’t worried about any students in class or anything, and I live alone.
Stranberg: I also got tested through my doctors office. CU wasn’t really notified except my teachers who I reached out to talk to. I hadn't been on campus so there was no reason for me to talk about it with them. I told all my teachers and they were all super supportive and said they would help me with whatever I needed. I had to tell my sorority house because I live there. We didn’t know this was a thing, but once you test positive for COVID you get a million phone calls. We got calls from…
Solomon: Boulder County Health, Tri-County Health, the CDC...
Stranberg: We got one from CU Boulder. All of them were really helpful. The CU Boulder one that called me was near the end. They asked me if I had financial troubles during COVID because we did a lot of Doordash, so they could leave it at the door so you don’t come in contact. They asked if I had trouble with that or needed anything. I didn’t, but it was nice they asked what I needed.
Solomon: All my professors, the same day I emailed them they said, "Take all the time you need and let me know when you’re ready to catch up on assignments." I feel like the worst part of it was headaches and it was hard to look at my screen for a long time because all my classes are online. Pretty much every professor I had said, "Don’t worry about it. This is a big deal. Focus on you, and get your work done when you can." I’ve been caught up now and everything is fine. So, they were really supportive in that sense.
Recently the university said they’re partnering with Boulder County Health and placing all students under self-quarantine until Sept. 29 to slow the spread of coronavirus. Has that changed your experience at the university or does it seem like people are listening?
Stranberg: When they announced that, it was kind of confusing when everyone first heard it. We were like, "Does this mean we’re completely under quarantine and no one can leave the city?" They mentioned the difference between isolation and quarantine, so they want people to mainly focus on quarantine.
I think it has helped a lot. Even to begin with, the only thing I saw that could have caused issues is people walking around outside at night. Boulder is a really active place. Everyone loves walking around. When people are outside a lot and they’re not on campus being told to wear a mask, they’re not going to. If I’m just walking around outside I’m not going to, but if I go inside absolutely I wear a mask. I think having the stay-at-home order has helped with that. Now people aren’t walking around aimlessly at night where they could potentially spread it if they pass someone.
This interview is part of KUNC’s Colorado Edition from Sept. 22. You can find the full episode here.