OPINION: Staying positive when you’re positive

A brightly lit room with a bed and a large white table.
The 5Cs must anticipate the potential effects of long COVID on the student body, writes guest columnist Vidusshi Hingad PO ’25. (Courtesy: Sophie Kim)

It’s been two years. The unprecedented has become very much precedented. Paranoia and uncertainty continue to converse, and in their intricate conversations lies an unpleasant truth. The world has changed multidimensionally: we mask our fear, we vaccinate our doubts, and we isolate our concerns. But this piece is not about spreading more negativity. This piece is about being positive. Quite literally.

I tested positive for COVID-19 on March 17, and it was the first time my mother was unhappy that I was ‘positive’ about something. I had a 104 fever for a couple of days, a terrible cough, fatigue, a cold, and body ache. I fainted a couple of times as well; things were not going great, to put it mildly. I had been moved into isolation and I was scared. I’d been boosted, and I’d had COVID before, but I was still in bad shape. I was talking to my mother, and she told me to keep a positive mindset. And I thought to myself, here she goes again.

My mother is an idealistically positive person. She is an artist who paints a silver lining on every heavy stormy cloud. I am, ironically, a deeply pessimistic person, who sees the silver lining as just an addition to the gray in the sky. It might have been out of homesickness or sheer exhaustion, but I tried to imbibe her spirit and take her advice to heart. With the benefit of hindsight, I would now highly recommend it to anyone (I know she’s reading this article, so I cannot even dismiss her).

Because honestly, my COVID experience could have been much worse. I genuinely felt like I was well taken care of. Pomona College did a fantastic job of grappling with the situation, which was surprising, as I had heard multiple accounts of undesirable experiences. I know that times have become more grave since my time in isolation and isolation housing has become more crowded. I am writing this article not to preach about the college, but to comfort the people who are being contact-traced or who have recently tested positive. 

The aspect of the situation that comforted me the most was that I was quarantined with one of my close friends (who also contracted COVID during spring break). We got assigned to a room together, with access to a balcony as well. We really kept our spirits high, watched movies, gave each other medicines, and genuinely took care of each other.

I am grateful to the college for being cognizant of my dietary restrictions, as they catered to all of my conditions. There was a small mishap when they sent me chicken by mistake, and I could not eat it, as I am vegetarian. I sent the COVID response team an email and immediately got a response that they were replacing it. Thirteen minutes later, they sent three boxes of food for me. I was so lucky to have such a responsive team catering to my individual needs.

The biggest highlight of my experience was the fact that all my professors had a hybrid option available. As soon as I tested positive, I wrote to all of them and communicated that I could not attend in-person classes. I expressed how I was very apprehensive and anxious about getting behind my school work, but after learning about my situation, my professors supported my access needs. They let me Zoom in for all my classes, continued to support me and gave me extensions on the work.

I know that the system has its imperfections and that a lot of aspects need to be improved, but Pomona has definitely taken a step in the right direction in comparison to how the college handled COVID previously. I would love to end on a positive note, but post-COVID complications remain a concern. The 5Cs must account for post-acute sequelae of SARS CoV-2 infection, better known as long COVID. As soon as I got out of quarantine after testing negative, I was expected to swing back into motion. I still had brain fog, but I was expected to take the same exams as my peers, submit applications, and write essays. 

This made me think about whether the standards of merit-based education should change if one contracts COVID. Now that more than a tenth of the campus has tested positive, how is brain fog going to affect academic performance? 

Brain fog, a term coined to describe slow or sluggish thinking, has multiple effects on cognition, concentration and attention spans. Moreover, shifting gears between in-person classes and online classes are also impacting academic learning. As the latest wave of cases hopefully begins to subside and senior thesis deadlines and finals approach, the 5Cs cannot ignore the lingering effects of COVID-19 for potentially a large fraction of the student body. If the unprecedented is now normal, then students deserve accommodations for the risk factors that hinder their cognition. The world has changed, and it’s time for the expectations for academic performance to change with it. 

Guest columnist Vidusshi Hingad PO ’25 is passionate about writing, theatre for change, and public speaking. Her areas of academic interest revolve around developmental psychology, sociolinguistics, gender studies, and epistemological research.

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