By Skyler Goldberg
Since the start of the spring semester, hundreds of undergraduate students on the Medford/Somerville campus have tested positive for COVID-19, and many of them have been required to isolate in one of the modular housing units on the Vouté Tennis Courts. Many will be familiar with the procedure by now: After testing positive, students have 90 minutes to corral their linens and toiletries, pack their suitcases and make the trek to their assigned unit.
Administrators have laid out policies for Mod life, including food delivery and medical checkups. But some students say it hasn’t been enough.
“I feel like Tufts could probably do more on the front of activities for people in The Mods of some form. The Mods are on the tennis courts — it’s a pretty big space,” Kevin Golub, a sophomore who tested positive for COVID-19 and spent several days isolating in The Mods in January, said. “I feel like they can find ways to break up the day for people, whether it’s an organized walk or an outdoor game of some kind … because sitting in that cell — just four walls — it’s really depressing.”
Tufts Dining delivers brunch and dinner to students in The Mods, who are told to place their first order by 11 a.m. and their second by 5 p.m., according to sophomore Ashley Jones-Flores, who was sent to The Mods in late January. But as a vegetarian, Jones-Flores said she was unhappy with the food selection.
“Their vegetarian options were not that great, so I would end up Uber Eats-ing or DoorDash-ing food pretty much once a day,” she said. Out of five entrees offered to them, Jones-Flores said two of them were vegetarian.
Golub said the university subsidized one Uber Eats order for him, but that he had to pay for subsequent deliveries. The Daily confirmed that $25 Uber Eats vouchers have been provided to students for certain meals.
In addition to the delivered meals, students can grab snacks from a pantry in The Mods, Golub said.
“They had cereals, granola bars, bags of chips, some iced teas and stuff like that, Powerade,” he said.
Golub recalled having cereal for breakfast and using the milk he would save in his refrigerator from the previous night’s dinner. He expressed frustration at not being able to order breakfast delivery from Tufts Dining.
“The fact that I had to hoard cereal boxes for breakfast is ridiculous,” Golub said.
“In our experience, students wake up and look for breakfast at varying times of the morning, and the average student eats on campus twice a day,” Director of Dining and Business Services Patti Klos wrote in an email to the Daily. “As a result, we purposefully make snacks available that can be used for breakfast. Even though we make two deliveries a day, students can order items they can have in the morning for breakfast.”
When a blizzard swept through campus one weekend in late January, students in The Mods were asked to walk to the Dewick-Macphie Dining Center. Many of them didn’t have boots or appropriate snow gear.
“They sent us to Dewick to pick up our food, and we had to trek in the snow, which was really rough,” Jones-Flores said.
Moreover, on the day of the snowstorm, medical staff did not check in on students in isolation, according to Jones-Flores. Normally, EMTs come once a day to take students’ pulses and temperatures.
“The time was supposed to be 11 a.m., but sometimes they’d come very late in the day,” Jones-Flores said.
Golub found The Mods very lonely.
“Classes hadn’t started yet, so I was just beyond bored. Just binge-watching shows was the best I could do, and at a certain point, even that got boring,” Golub told the Daily.
Dr. Marie Caggiano, medical director of Health Service, clarified in an email to the Daily what social outlets are currently available to students in isolation.
“Students in isolation may participate in virtual events and may spend time outdoors in the area immediately around the Mods, provided they remain masked and socially distanced for others,” Caggiano wrote.
Jones-Flores said she and her suitemates all tested positive around the same time, so their experience wasn’t as lonesome.
Caggiano said that students isolating in The Mods are permitted to interact with each other.
“There are no restrictions that prevent students in isolation from interacting with one another if they choose to. Because all students housed in the Mods have already tested positive, there is not risk of infection spreading among Mods residents,” Caggiano wrote.
It is prohibited, however, for students who have not tested positive to enter The Mods, according to briana Sevigny, director of community standards at the Dean of Student Affairs Office.
“Students in the Mods are not permitted to have guests. Although to date we have not received specific, actionable complaints about unauthorized people visiting the Mods, we have had discussions with some students alleged to not be following the stated guidelines. Consequences for violating this policy would be situation-dependent,” Sevigny wrote in an email to the Daily.