COVID roommates_graphic

Even before testing positive for COVID-19, Laura Cavalenes hesitated to share personal space with her roommates. The senior communication studies major at the University of Georgia took all the right precautions, wearing a mask and social distancing. 

Cavalenes unexpectedly tested positive for the virus despite showing no symptoms. Once the result came in, she sprung into action. She alerted her parents, whom she had lunch with the weekend prior. She called a friend who had joined her on an outdoor picnic. News of a positive COVID-19 test wasn’t something she could send by text, Cavalenes said. 

Perhaps most importantly, she needed to tell her roommates. One of her roommates was standing in the kitchen while Cavalenes stood in her bedroom doorway. Cavalenes and her roommates had a conversation about how to proceed. 

“Can I go out into the kitchen? What are the rules for that?” Cavalenes said. “With the exception of food, I could just be in my room and bathroom for 10 days. [My roommates] were very gracious and kind. ‘You have to eat,’ they said.”

Every student has friends or contacts who interact with other people. While case numbers at UGA have declined since the start of the semester, two busy gameday weekends in Athens could lead to increased infection in the UGA community. The university reported 66 new cases from Sept. 28-Oct. 4, just one more than the week prior.

In late August, junior exercise and sport science major Sam Lindner attended a social gathering that had more people than expected. He said he tested positive for COVID-19 four days later.   

“Some people might stay in contact with what they deem a small group,” Lindner said. “Part of the problem is that group is not as small as they think it is. Each of those people will be in contact with their own people — roommates, friends, family. That creates a bigger network of potential cases.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a close contact as any “individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days before illness onset.” Close contacts should be alerted quickly and referred for testing. 

Tristan Sharp, a freshman student living in Oglethorpe House residence hall, received an email from DawgCheck in late September alerting him that his suitemates tested positive. Sharp’s roommate, whose weaker immune system puts him at a higher risk for severe complications, went home upon receiving the email. 

Instead of going home, Sharp hung out in his empty dorm room until his roommate tested negative. Sharp assumed he and his roommate didn’t have COVID-19 because they usually stay away from their suitemates. 

“Either we’re there when they’re not or vice versa,” Sharp said. “We don’t have their numbers or anything. Because we’ve never really been in the room at the same time.”

Cavalenes, who lives off-campus, only went into her kitchen when it was empty and used Lysol wipes on every surface she touched. Everyone decided to wear masks in the common areas, she said. 

She decided to put her positive result on her Instagram story to alert her friends and remind everyone the virus is still active, despite declining case numbers. She said she thinks more people should take advantage of the free surveillance testing at Legion Field. 

“I did everything quote unquote right,” Cavalenes said. “I was big on wearing masks and social distancing. So it’s frustrating that I got it, but I’m also very thankful for the surveillance testing.”

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