Students say they were ‘doing everything right,’ but still contracted COVID-19

(Illustration by Abigail Compton | Collegian Media Group)

Spending time at her boyfriend’s house was nothing out of the ordinary for Lauren West, junior in microbiology.

In late August, West’s regular visits to see Tristan Korff, junior in economics, were unexpectedly cut off after his roommate, Connor Balthazor, came into contact with a positive case of COVID-19.

Two days after West, Korff and Balthazor, junior in English and political science, had all been hanging out watching a movie, Korff said he and his roommates received a text from Balthazor.

He had driven to Sonic with two friends, one of whom later received a positive COVID-19 test. After hearing the news, Balthazor shut himself in his room for eight days.

“I only ever came out to use the bathroom. They brought food up to me for about a week,” he said. “I just stayed in my room and kind of counted the days.”

After isolating Balthazor, Korff said, “the first thing you do is think about the whole network of people who are connected to that.”

Balthazor notified his house as soon as he heard of his contact. West, who had been there two days before, would need to be tested as well.

“The very next day, I called Lafene,” West said. “I went in, and they separated the sick with the healthy.”

Three days later, she was informed she’d tested positive.

“I wasn’t very surprised because I had a few really mild symptoms, but they were enough that I thought I probably did have it considering my contact,” she said. “I was a little worried because the following weekend, I had gone home to see my parents. I wasn’t around them for long, but I was still nervous.”

West’s hybrid class schedule helped her transition to working exclusively online during her isolation.

“I only have a lab that I went to in person, everything else was online,” she said. “I immediately emailed my lab professor, explained the situation and she was super nice about it and said to let her know about my results.”

Knowing what she does now, West said she wouldn’t have gone over to Korff and Balthazor’s house that day.

“It was a tough situation because it was my boyfriend’s roommate, so I’m at his house multiple days a week,” she said. “I’m not even sure what day I really got it.”

All three students said they were surprised they came into contact with COVID-19 given how careful they were. Then, they began to realize how many people they come in contact with daily.

“You really see how quickly this all goes,” Korff said. “You have one person who hasn’t even tested positive but had a close contact, and you now have eight or nine people who all have to shut down, and that’s just on our side.”

It’s difficult to see other students behaving irresponsibly and being lucky enough not to get the virus, West said.

“It was frustrating because it wasn’t even some big party, it was us watching a movie,” she said. “I was doing everything right except wearing a mask. They were all within my inner circle.”

Balthazor described his contact with a positive patient as a “fluke.”

“We had our windows down and did as much as we could,” he said. “I figured we’d be safe because we’re all people who have been pretty conscious.”

To limit the spread, Balthazor said being honest with contact tracing is one of the most important things for COVID-19 patients to do.

“I’m sure there are people who are nervous about implicating their friends and having to quarantine, but It’s only hurting other people by not being honest,” he said.

In order to limit the potential spread, West said she wore a mask in her house and tried to stay six feet away from her roommates.

Each of their tests came back negative.

“My roommates testing negative made me feel a lot better,” she said. “Be really careful and try to stick to your inner circle.”

The message each student said they’d spread to others who may come into contact with COVID-19 is to err on the side of caution.

Even when students think they’re staying safe, it’s really easy to come into contact with the virus, Korff said.

“Immediately stop hanging around people, wear a mask, even in your own house, even as annoying as it can be,” West said.