Students living on campus who test positive for the coronavirus can isolate at the Statler Hotel.

Karly Krasnow / Sun File Photo

Students living on campus who test positive for the coronavirus can isolate at the Statler Hotel.

October 5, 2020

How Cornell Supports Students Recovering From COVID-19

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When Cornell mandates students to quarantine after contract COVID-19, they remain isolated from their friends and classmates. But even after they finish quarantining, life does not immediately go back to normal.

Individuals who tested positive must remain in isolation for at least 10 days after onset of illness, but this period may be extended depending on the symptoms, according to TCHD spokesperson Samantha Hillson. Close contacts must quarantine for 14 days following their exposure.

As of Monday evening, Cornell’s quarantine and isolation room capacity is 98 percent empty because the University released many students who were COVID-19 positive and had completed their isolation period.

A student, who chose to remain anonymous for medical privacy reasons, spoke to The Sun about their experience when she was released from the Statler after an 11-day quarantine. The student had lost her sense of smell for five days and was nauseous for two of those days, but she soon regained her sense of smell and appetite a few days into her Statler medical isolation.

With the student’s permission, Student Disability Services contacted her instructors to let them know of her accommodations for 14 days. A student’s COVID-19 status is not disclosed, according to SDS director Zebadiah Hall, because such accommodations could also be requested for other illnesses and disabilities.

The student’s temporary accommodations included allowed absences, the ability to make up missed exams and course content, deadline extensions and the ability to participate in coursework, including exams, remotely.

Students are guaranteed 14 days of paid sick leave from campus jobs during their quarantine period if they cannot work remotely in isolation, according to Diane Corbett, director of financial aid.

But being away from friends while stuck in a hotel room can create mental health challenges for some students, including the student who spoke with The Sun.

“I did have a good recovery but it’s still a very unpleasant experience being there in general, not physically, but mentally,” she said. “I like spending time in nature, so not even being able to breathe fresh air, take a walk or leave my room was hard.”

While telehealth mental health resources were available, and students in isolation received an email on mental health and social support resources from the Cornell Care and Crisis team, the student opted to wait and see if her anxiety resolved once she was back in her Collegetown apartment. She has been feeling better since leaving the hotel.

Dr. Alecia Sundsmo, director of Counseling and Psychological Services for Cornell Health, recommends group therapy and coping skills workshops for students struggling with COVID-related mental health challenges.

“During isolation, students receive outreach that includes information about resources to support their mental health,” Sundsmo wrote in an email to The Sun. “We hope that by resourcing students during isolation, they will also use the information as needed when they leave isolation.”

The student received a survey about her time in The Statler, but has received no other follow up communications from Cornell Health or the TCHD since leaving The Statler.

Frank Kruppa, TCHD director, sent the student an email notifying her that she could leave medical isolation, writing, “You are at liberty to resume normal day to day activities. We do not consider you to be contagious to others.”

Kruppa’s email recommended that the student continue to follow standard COVID-19 public health precautions. The student is continuing to social distance, wear a mask and be cautious. She is temporarily exempt from surveillance testing, according to her Daily Check portal.

While the student who spoke with The Sun has no remaining symptoms, accomodations can be made for students with lingering symptoms like fatigue and brain fog. For example, students could get transportation assistance around campus through the CULift program, which provides transportation for any students with illnesses, injuries and disabilities that make moving around campus difficult.

Accommodations can be extended or adapted for students who need them beyond the 14 days because of continuing symptoms. If students don’t think their instructor is following accomodation guidelines, they can reach out to SDS. According to Hall, in the case of discrimination, students can also file a report with the University.

Srishti Tyagi ’22 contributed reporting.