Students Share Their Experiences
By Lauren Vizcarra
Walla Walla University’s recent spike in COVID-19 cases placed numerous students in quarantine and isolation. Thankfully, Kari Firestone, COVID-19 response director, and her team have been working very hard to keep students, faculty, and staff safe. 
Grant Hartman, a senior mechanical engineering major and student living in the Birch Street Apartments, was one of many WWU students who had to be put in quarantine. The quarantine period is two weeks. Due to the potential of a false negative test result that would still require quarantine, some may opt to forego a COVID-19 test. 
After discovering that a friend he had been in contact with tested positive for the coronavirus, Hartman filled out a report on the SaferMe app. In less than an hour he received a text followed by a phone call from Firestone. 
“The University was very professional and confidential in the way they contacted me after I self-reported,” Hartman said.
The WWU Care Team, charged with assisting students who are sick, in quarantine, or have chosen to self-isolate, was very attentive, Hartman said. They offer resources such as food delivery, sick kits for residence hall students, mental health resources, and chaplain connection. 
The professors for Hartman’s two in-person classes have been very accommodating. For the dual modality class, he was easily able to utilize the online option. The professor from his other class sent him handouts for the class and personally delivered the materials he needed for a lab. 
Troy Fitzgerald, WWU church youth and collegiate pastor, even delivered a letter and a book to Hartman as a gift. 
Joelle Townsend, a freshman secondary education and English major, had to quarantine in her dorm room after coming in contact with a student who tested positive. Townsend herself tested negative for COVID-19, but per protocol, she had to be put in quarantine for two weeks. She was able to stay in her dorm room because of the negative test result. To protect the general student population, students who test positive for COVID-19 must relocate to a separate quarantine area. 
At the beginning of the quarantine process, affected dorm students are asked to fill out a form letting the WWU Care Team know if they have any food allergies or preferences such as vegan or gluten free. Using this information, three meals a day are delivered to the secluded student. 
All four of Townsend’s classes are in-person. Three of them were dual modality which allowed her to easily transition to online. Sherry Wachter, the teacher for her fourth class, created a special Zoom class for all the students unable to attend in person due to the virus. 
Keeping busy with exercising, embroidering, and watching Netflix shows has kept Townsend from getting bored. She noted that being in quarantine has allowed her more time to do things that are beneficial, and she has been getting plenty of good sleep. Being able to FaceTime friends and family has also helped keep her morale up. 
The WWU COVID-19 Response Taskforce and Care Team have been working diligently at keeping students safe and making sure their needs are met. Townsend adds that “Kari Firestone was an absolute angel throughout the whole quarantine process.” 
- Email correspondence with John McVay, 11/11/2020.
- Interview with Grant Hartman, 11/12/20.
- Interview with Joelle Townsend, 11/12/20.