Hannah Rosenberg/Sun Senior Editor

Many quarantined students have expressed mixed reactions to the University's COVID isolation policies, which have changed since the fall semester.

March 21, 2022

Students Report Mixed Experiences With University-provided COVID Isolation Accommodations

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Though Cornell has dropped weekly testing requirements and eased its mask mandate for vaccinated individuals, students who test positive for COVID-19 remain required to isolate. While some students appreciate the hotel rooms and meals provided by the University, many have expressed frustrations with a lack of communication from the University and difficulty traveling to the hotels. 

Victoria Gong ’25 was one of the hundreds of students isolated during the spike in COVID-19 cases at the end of the fall 2021 semester. Gong was transported by Campus Transportation Services to Hotel Ithaca in the Ithaca Commons the day after she reported a positive test to Cornell Health via Daily Check.

Gong, who stayed in the hotel last December, said her room was spacious and her ability to order takeout with City Bucks and medical supplies made her isolation period a better experience overall. 

However, Gong noted that the meals provided by the hotel often didn’t arrive on time — or sometimes did not arrive at all.

“The meal schedule was very inconsistent. There were two distinct times that I didn’t get any meal at all,” Gong said.

For the spring 2022 semester, isolation meals look a little different, as isolated students no longer have $500 in City Bucks to spend on meals delivered from restaurants. Roberto Garcia ’25 said that he was able to order food from Collegetown Bagels or Ithaca Bakery when he isolated in Cayuga Blu from Mar. 9 to Mar. 14. These options replaced the City Bucks offered in the fall 2021 semester. 

“There were pretty good options,” Garcia said. “The food wasn’t always amazing, but it was nice to be able to pick whatever you wanted.”

Garcia took a rapid test after feeling symptomatic and received an email from the Daily Check shortly after submitting the positive result. However, he experienced a transportation delay.

“I had roughly two and a half hours [to wait] after I told them I was ready for them to actually pick me up,” Garcia said. “I think [Cornell] could have handled getting sick people out of the dorm a little quicker.”

According to Garcia, two of his friends also tested positive on the same day and weren’t picked up for several hours after they called the quarantine number. This posed a concern as they wanted to avoid spreading the virus to their roommates. 

Maya Mau ’24 also isolated in Cayuga Blu for five days this month. In contrast to Garcia’s experience transporting to the hotel, she found the process easy, saying that the approximately two-hour wait to be picked up was fine. 

“I have a single [dorm room], so compared to people that had to sit there with their roommate while being positive, it wasn’t that bad,” Mau said.

Mau said she was impressed by the isolation experience, and she enjoyed ordering food from Ithaca Bakery since it was paid for by the University. She also said that snacks and tissues were readily available at the hotel.  

Similarly, Clara Enders ’22 said her transportation from the co-op house she lives in to Cayuga Blu went smoothly. 

“I had heard horror stories about [Cayuga Blu], but it wasn’t bad at all,” Enders said. She said the room she stayed in was comfortable, and food was always delivered on time.

Kendal Phinney ’25, also isolated in March and said that instead of CTB and Ithaca Bakery, those who stayed in Hotel Ithaca were given meals from the hotel’s own kitchen, which was not to Phinney’s liking.

“The food was not good,” Phinney said. “I was DoorDashing the whole time. The City Bucks would have been much appreciated.” 

Enders noted that she had more issues with Cornell’s handling of isolated students than she had with her hotel, citing lack of guidance from Cornell Health. She believed that more assistance should have been offered to those who still felt symptomatic after their isolation period.

“You just get a zip lock bag of masks and ibuprofen and that was it. There was no follow-up and no help with my health,” Enders said.

Phinney, who is immunocompromised, also had concerns about Cornell Health’s lack of communication. She was told she could receive paxlovid, an antiviral medication, during her isolation but said that she never received a phone call about getting the medicine. 

“I wish they would have followed up,” Phinney said. “I was very scared that I was going to get a lot sicker.”

Correction, March 23, 2:19 p.m.: The initial version of this article misstated that students were taken to isolation by CULift. Students were transported by Campus Transportation Services.