Freshman Flu or COVID-19?

| Contributing Writer

(Illustration by Sophie Leong)

It started as a sore throat that I blamed on my suitemate. She had lost her voice a few days prior, and I feared heading down the same route as I prepped for a cappella auditions. I kept up on my multivitamins, began taking vitamin C, and drank hot water as a way to soothe my throat.

Two days later, two of my suitemates tested positive for COVID-19. 

I was fairly sure I had it, considering my sore throat had turned into a full-blown cough. I took at-home tests two days in a row, but both came back negative despite my symptoms worsening. I hoped to get an appointment with Habif, but because it was Labor Day, I settled for calling TimelyCare. 

As I spoke to the doctor in my gravelly voice, he suggested that I go to urgent care. Without a car or legs that were strong enough to take me anywhere, this was not a possibility. 

I waited things out until the next day. I had set up an appointment with Habif and got a PCR test. The doctor prescribed me some cough syrup, and instead of having me sit in the waiting room as the prescription was filled, he had me stay in the exam room.

“Based on your symptoms, you probably have COVID, so I don’t want you sitting out there with the other patients,” he said. “If your test comes back positive, I’ll give you a call.”

After downing my cough syrup and wrapping myself in a blanket, my phone started to ring. 

The first thing I did was text my suitemates (responses of “oh no!” arrived from my COVID-negative suitemates, and a plea to “come hang out with us” came from the rest). 

The next few days were a blur of rom-coms, cough drops, and guilty visits to pick up food from the dining hall (“Are we supposed to be here?” I asked a COVID-positive suitemate, to which she replied, “What’s the alternative?”). 

I thought that a week of isolation would give me more than enough time to keep up with my classes, but I found it impossible to read, let alone write an essay. I could barely keep my eyes open during a re-watch of “The Princess Bride” (and I love “The Princess Bride”). Thankfully, professors and club leaders were very flexible. I even did a cappella callbacks virtually, either over Zoom or through voice recordings.

While I expected that I would get COVID in college, I didn’t expect to get it my second week of classes. Being a first-year, I didn’t have friends in my courses yet when I tested positive. I was on my own for notes and homework, and I felt like I missed opportunities to settle in. However, having COVID with some of my suitemates encouraged us to grow closer — bonding over missed club meetings, the difficulties of doing homework while sick, and a need for human connection. 

My COVID-negative suitemates faced separate challenges as they attempted to avoid the spread. They abstained from using our shared bathroom, showering at Sumers Rec and walking back to the South 40 dripping wet. They stayed in the dorm for as little time as possible and opened their windows to ventilate the space. While my COVID-negative suitemates tried to access resources from the Isolation Housing Office, it was closed every time they visited. Instead, they got free COVID tests from Habif.

After nine movies, four orders of BD stir-fry, and one-and-a-half bags of cough drops, I am finally COVID-free. I feel unprepared going back to classes, but at least I have the security of three months of immunity…until the next “freshman flu” comes around.


To read sophomore Alice Gottesman’s day-in-the-life with COVID, see: 

COVID Day-In-My-Life: Five days deep


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