Amid the unprecedented circumstances surrounding fall semester move-in, two Cornellians started an initiative to help quell quarantine-related anxiety and keep the Ithaca community safe.
Isabel Dawson ’23 and Hannah Robins ’23 have spent the past few days running errands for members of the Cornell community who are stuck in quarantine or are anxious about leaving their residences — and they’re doing it for free.
Dawson publicized the cost-free initiative in a Monday post on Cornell’s subreddit. Dawson and Robins pick up groceries and other requested items from Wegmans, Target, Walmart, restaurants and other stores in the Ithaca area. They will buy and deliver within a few hours, and Cornellians who use the service only pay them the price of the purchased items.
Recognizing the safety concerns of the local Ithaca community, as well as the anxiety among students generated by the University’s reopening plans, Dawson said she wanted to find a way to help both of her community members. As an Ithaca native, Dawson said she hopes her service will encourage more people to remain in quarantine for the entire 14-day period.
“I was worried for my Ithaca community that people would not be respectful of the guidelines,” Dawson said. “I am really proud of how Ithaca has been doing, and I wanted to protect that as well as help Cornellians, and no one else was doing it.”
Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D-N.Y.) executive order, students traveling from restricted states must quarantine for two weeks when they arrive in New York, or another non-restricted state. To accommodate on-campus students coming from these hot-spot states, Cornell has provided meals to those moving into the residential dorms.
Cornell, however, does not provide daily meals for those living off-campus this semester. As a result, Dawson feared that students would break quarantine in order to buy the food that they needed.
“I have heard, first-hand, stories of people who are supposed to be quarantining for two weeks here, but they have been leaving every morning to get breakfast because the hotel doesn’t do room service, or similar situations,” Dawson said. “I thought that we might be able to prevent people from breaking quarantine if we made it easier for them to get what they need.”
Students who are settling into on-campus housing have also used this delivery service. Although on-campus students have generally been content with the Cornell-provided meals, some students said they wanted more variety and choice in their meals. For example, while there have been few complaints about taste and quality, Eric Dong ’24 said that many of the meals lack adequate fruits and vegetables.
To alleviate some of the anxiety over public spaces and public transportation, Dawson and Robinson decided to extend their services to those who are not required to be quarantining.
“I wanted to try to support people who feel unheard because they are not supposed to be inside because they don’t have to quarantine but they still feel uncomfortable going outside,” Dawson said.
In addition to groceries, many clients ordered feminine hygiene products because they did not have access to them in quarantine. In order to rectify this shortfall, Dawson is now working with Shura Gat, the assistant director of the Women’s Resource Center, to make sure that those in quarantine have quick and easy access to them.
After just a few hours of making the initial post, Dawson and Robinson were swamped with requests. Currently working as a two-person team, the sophomore pair has collectively spent hours at stores fulfilling orders; over the last four days, they have completed 44.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Robinson said. “I thought it would just be a few people, but it has been crazy.”
Already overwhelmed with orders, the pair is unsure about the initiative’s future. As more Cornelians travel to Ithaca in the coming days, they expect demand to even further rise.
“It has been hectic. That sums it up,” Dawson echoed. ”We have gotten a lot of people saying that this is what they have been waiting for.”