By Hannah Dugan ’21
When Davidson College students received an email indicating that a student on campus had entered quarantine, they had no idea who it was. One student, Ellie Lipp ‘22 , however, had a unique feeling when seeing that message: “I read the email from [President] Carol Quillen [stating that] there’d been a student quarantined, which was me. That was a weird feeling, a weird experience, because all my friends that texted me [asked], ‘Oh, is this email about you?’ And, yes, it was.” There were rumors and speculations in the preceding days of how Davidson would respond to a potential case of COVID-19. Ellie graciously shared her experience with The Davidsonian.
She came back from spring break feeling under the weather. Like any student would, Ellie visited the Student Center for Health and Wellbeing that Monday and received assurance she did not have COVID-19, but rather mono. On Thursday, the day that we received the news to go home, she returned to the health center and had a drastically different experience. Out of an abundance of caution, the staff presumed Ellie had coronavirus. Ellie luckily received a test, from the supply that had arrived at the college that day, but would not receive the results for a few days. Everyone who entered Ellie’s exam room wore a mask, gloves and gowns. She remained at the health center for four hours, confused and a little anxious about what quarantine entailed. However, Dean Shaffer quickly took control and set out a definitive plan, assuring Ellie that everything would be okay.
Before leaving the health center, Dean Shaffer returned and asked Ellie what she wanted to eat. Before Ellie could fully understand what he was asking her, he said, “I’m going to get you Chick-fil-A for dinner.” He quickly returned, food in hand, and delivered it to Ellie, who was still in the health Center. This was one of many times Ellie found the college’s response impressive and comforting. Ellie was the first student quarantined, and she said Davidson gave her an individualized experience that assuaged some of her anxieties.
After dinner, she moved into a single room in the Carnegie Guest House. The journey there, she said, “was like a secret-agent mission.” She and Dean Shaffer snuck to the Guest House, trying to avoid as many people as possible. At one point, Ellie hid in a bush, outfitted in a mask and gloves, to conceal herself from an approaching group of students. In an attempt to decrease the fear and anxiety of the student body, the college prohibited Ellie from telling anyone where she was or why.
Finally, they arrived in a basement room. Although not anything special, it was big, clean, and prepared for quarantine. Once there, Dean Shaffer asked Ellie what she felt most anxious about. She voiced her worries about losing her job as a hall counselor. He assured her that the college could not fire her for being sick. He then went to her room and gathered her clothes, backpack, and phone charger. Later that night, around 11pm, Ellie called him again because, as a type-1 diabetic, she needed her insulin pump from her room. Dean Shaffer returned to campus, retrieved the pump, and delivered it to her. He was, as Ellie put it, “wonderful.”
On Friday morning, Ellie’s mom arrived. Their hopes of seeing and hugging one another, however, were quickly dashed. Instead, they waved, Ellie from the window of the Guest House, and her mom, from the parking lot nearby. She sat and watched as her mom packed up her room, occasionally fielding phone calls and questions of “Should we bring this home?” or “Should we get a storage unit?” Throughout the day, she received check-ins from various administrators, including Dean Shaffer, Dean Buchanan, and Dean Snipes. To receive meals, Ellie was on a texting basis with the Head of Dining Services, who provided her and her mom breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Her friends, the small group who knew where she was, were also a big source of support, calling her and setting “the phone outside so [she] could hear the birds or talk to [her] for an hour, which was really fun and kind of got [her] outside of the room without going physically outside the room.”
Finally, after her room was packed and her mom was ready to go, Ellie could leave. The two had a seven hour drive home to Birmingham, Alabama, during which they had to wear face masks, as Ellie would not receive her test results for another two days. Before the drive, Ellie and her mom had to make sure no one saw Ellie leave the Guest House. Like her journey from the health center, her route from the Guest House to the car was reminiscent of a secret agent mission. Ellie ran to her mom’s car, parked between the President’s House and the Guest House, in the night. She and her mom wore masks the entire drive. As they departed, Ellie saw a group of her friends, standing 20 feet away, waving good-bye to her, unable to hug or otherwise physically say goodbye. “So that made my mom and I cry,” she shared.
After three days of self-quarantining at home, Ellie’s results came back negative. Finally, after days of isolation and uncertainty, Ellie could return to our new normal of Zoom classes and social distancing.