COVID-19 Positive Students to Isolate in Breakout Rooms

Written by: Elise Jonas-Delson

One student had to be further isolated after sending others in their breakout room a virus.
Photo by Maria Dhilla

UC San Diego students who test positive for COVID-19 are now required to isolate in breakout rooms, per updated guidance from Return to Concern, a newly-developed companion to the university’s popular Return to Learn program. The decision to shift to the virtual modality follows a surge in campus cases, leaving the university scrambling for solutions amidst a shortage of available rooms in local hotels and an unsuccessful bidding process with the L’Auberge Del Mar. Noting campus officials’ state of desperation, the CEO of Infectious Diseases at Zoom Video Communications, Inc. had called to offer the school a stipend in exchange for utilizing the platform for quarantine purposes.

Gary Lutz, director of UCSD’s pandemic response team, expressed satisfaction with the new policy, describing it as the “perfect fit” within the broader Return to Learn program. “It’s like we never left!” Lutz said. “When we say that we’re facing breakouts, we’re not just referring to viral spread. Besides, breakout rooms are top-of-the-line in ensuring students don’t actually socialize with their peers. I’m certain that when professors open them up, the only activities that ensue are eating, sleeping, or cryptically mumbling into the void.”

The administration’s excitement regarding Return to Concern is less infectious among students, however. “When I found out I had COVID, I thought I’d at least get to upgrade to the Residence Inn La Jolla for a week,” a Camp Snoopy resident complained. “But all I got was the longest Zoom meeting of my life. I even had to restart my quarantine six times due to intermittent ResNet outages.” The student also expressed frustration with the system’s reshuffling of randomly-selected four-person breakout groups, citing its lack of privacy, which resulted in sleep interruptions by way of incessant boss music and an unfortunate encounter with their ex-partner.

Isolating students are encouraged to use the reaction feature to keep advice nurses up to date on their symptoms and overall well-being. Requests for over-the-counter medicines, expired Foodworx meals, or King Tritonthemed coloring books may be placed in the chat. “My Zoom and COVID fatigue are virtually indistinguishable at this point,” another student added, piping up from the bottom left corner of the screen. “It’s like a nightmare I can never log off from.”

When confronted with allegations of “failing to protect community spread” and “short circuiting a critical public health issue,” Lutz doubled down on the intentions of the Return to Concern policy. “We see you, we hear you, and we are committed to the health and safety of our campus community,” Lutz wrote in a statement embossed with the Zoom watermark, “Now mute yourselves before we start charging rent.

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