When Chase Nelson received a phone call saying he had tested positive for COVID-19, he was surprised to say the least.
“It was almost funny because I didn’t think I was going to have it,” the agricultural business junior said. “I thought there was no chance, and it was kind of surreal testing positive.”
At least 898 Cal Poly students, faculty, and staff have tested positive on Cal Poly’s campus since the first Cal Poly student tested positive on March 24. Students said their symptoms ranged from mild to moderate. When a student is infected with the virus and lives with other people, each roommate and the infected individual are to quarantine in their home for at least 10 days. When a student receives a positive result, they can expect a call from the CDC in the few days following to perform contact tracing.
Mustang News spoke with six Cal Poly students who tested positive for COVID-19; here’s what they had to say.
What was your immediate reaction to testing positive for COVID-19?
Jacob Swergold, recreation, parks and tourism administration junior: Obviously I reached out to people I’d been in contact with. I didn’t want to jeopardize anyone’s health. I recommended that all my friends get tested, and some of my roommates were already positive. So I kind of knew it was coming since I’ve been living in the house of people that had coronavirus. I kind of had been quarantined before I had the virus.
Jack Simpson, business senior: When I found out I was COVID-positive, I texted all my friends I’d seen over the last couple days, which was only like three, and I let them know. I let them know that I had it and that they should all get tested, which they did. And then I locked myself down in my room. My roommates also tested positive too on the same day. So we all were like, okay, we’re quarantining to do this together.
Allison Hanscom, communication studies senior: I knew that I had it because I had a lot of symptoms. And my boyfriend was positive prior to me, so I figured I probably would get it.
Jessie Guerra, recreation, parks and tourism administration senior: Honestly, I wasn’t that surprised because I started to lose my taste on Monday night. And I started to feel sick, kind of like Sunday and Monday, so I wasn’t that surprised. I kind of just accepted it.
How would you describe your symptoms?
Hanscom: My main symptom was a cough definitely and a headache. So I kind of just took a while to get over the cough. That was my main thing.
Guerra: My symptoms were pretty mild. I lost my taste and smell. But other than that, just kind of like congestion, like a pretty mild cold, I would say.
Kendall Blanchfield, communications studies senior: I had a variety of symptoms. I’ve lost my taste. I had a fever. I had a sore throat and headaches. I had shortness of breath, and then overall just been really tired.
Chase Nelson, agricultural business senior: I had a sore throat and a headache, sometimes I had body fatigue.
How do you think the virus spread to you?
Hanscom: I think I got it from my boyfriend because he was positive.
Guerra: I actually have no idea how I got it. Our neighbors had it. So maybe from them because they were around us before they knew they had it.
Blanchfield: I think I got it either from my roommates who were positive or from being exposed to someone at another house that had it.
Nelson: I was at not a house party but a kickback and I think that somebody brought it from out of town.
How did your roommates respond?
Hanscom: At first, I think everyone was overwhelmed because I was like the first one in our house to have coronavirus. So it was a learning process for all of us in the sense of what I should do that’s best for everyone and what they should do that’s best for me. So I think that the immediate reaction was just like a little bit of uncertainty.
Guerra: My roommates were not really that surprised either. My direct roommate also started feeling sick, so we kind of assumed she had it. We kind of just like, isolated until we knew exactly like the results. And my other roommates had already had it, so they weren’t too worried.
Nelson: It was a mixed reaction. Some people were not surprised and others were immediately terrified of me. My roommate in my room kind of just accepted his fate and he got tested like a week later and he was still negative so he just never got it. I ended up going home for like a week, and I just stayed at my parents’ condo that nobody was at.
*Note: None of Nelson’s seven roommates tested positive after he did.
How did you spend your time in quarantine?
Hanscom: My parents were able to set up an accommodation for me outside of San Luis Obispo. And I spent six days there and was able to kind of just sleep a lot, emailed some teachers. They were really helpful. I was able to just get better.
Swergold: I did lots of really good things like you know I was doing yoga, I was watching YouTube videos trying to keep my mind sharp, keep my body sharp. My mantra through the whole virus was strong body, strong mind and I just really embodied that.
Simpson: I studied a lot. I read a lot of books, or one book, or half of it. I hung out with my roommates too because they were all quarantined with me so we all just hung out every night a little like family group circle and watched some movies.
Nelson: I hung out with people who’ve either had it or have it. It’s not easy because everyone kind of looks at you like you have the “Ick” which you do, so, you just have to get past that social block and just accept your fate.
Guerra: I watched a lot of TV. I watched Emily in Paris in one day. And I watched Hollywood on Netflix. And I played a lot of Catan and Rummikub. But I just tried to take it easy, you know, relax, really, like, take the time to rest. So I was kind of watching movies and played games, but it was nice.
How did this affect your school work?
Simpson: I actually did not really have much energy for schoolwork because I was pretty crippled by the virus. So I was kind of just trying to do as much as I could, but my brain was not operating on full capacity. So I don’t know I did probably about average score because I spent more time doing it because I was isolated, but I also wasn’t as efficient.
Swergold: I actually feel like COVID forced me to be more productive from an academic standpoint, because usually at Cal Poly, obviously we live in a really social area. Beautiful area. It’s hard not to be outside and constantly doing things and seeing people, even during coronavirus, it’s still hard to not be social and go out and, especially in the college environment. So actually like it kind of grinded me because I was forced to stay at home and I could have either just stayed there and done nothing or I could have been productive and I chose to be productive and make the most out of a not so great situation.
Guerra: It honestly didn’t really affect my school work too much. I had a pretty chill week, which was nice. So I didn’t have to like stress about classes. So yeah, it wasn’t too effective. Surprisingly.
Blanchfield: Honestly, for the three days where I felt really sick, I was very, very, very tired and just felt like it was hard to kind of look at screens and stay awake. And so it just made it a little bit harder to focus and do work for a certain amount of time.
How did you access food and water?
Blanchfield: I have a few immune roommates who have already had COVID and gotten over it. So they were able to go get us some things that we needed. And then also, I’ve been utilizing delivery services like Doordash and Instacart to get some things great.
Do you feel like getting COVID-19 was your fault?
Simpson: Yes, it was my fault because I take absolutely no precautions to ensure that I don’t get it. I will see anybody happily, I don’t watch the amount of people I’m around, all of my roommates that I choose to live with also do not do that. So it was really only a matter of time before I got it, because I literally don’t take social distancing seriously at all.
Guerra: To an extent, but I also think that the reason I got it was because other people around me were not being very smart. I think I made the choice to go out, which definitely put me at risk but yes I guess it would be my fault then.
Blanchfield: Yes to some extent because I have been a little bit relaxed about some of the guidelines that the CDC has recommended, but also when my roommates tested positive I was already at a spot where I couldn’t really avoid them.
Hanscom: No, I don’t feel like it’s my fault because it is a disease that’s going around the entire world. It is something that you can’t really take personally even though there is a stigma around it.
Are you happy you’ve already had it now?
Hanscom: I wouldn’t necessarily term that I’m happy that I’ve already had it. I know a lot of people are looking at coronavirus like I just hope I can get it over with and be immune. Maybe in retrospect I feel more comfortable because I don’t feel worried about getting it, but there’s just not enough research yet that kind of speaks on the disease in itself. I kind of feel neutral on that.
Blanchfield: Yes, I’m happy because now I don’t feel a pressure that I’m going to give it to my family and I feel more comfortable seeing my extended family over the holiday break and knowing that I won’t either get it or transfer it to anyone.
Guerra: Honestly, yes I am happy because now I don’t have to put my family at risk when I go home and other family members that could be more seriously affected by it.
Simpson: Yes, now I don’t have to worry about going around my family over the holidays. It was actually fun when I had it too.
Editor’s Note: Each student listed in the story has fully recovered and never needed medical assistance.