The creation of quarantine pods – also called pandemic pods, quarantine bubbles, and quaranteams – is a harm-reduction strategy that has received considerable media attention as the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened. In almost every Oberlin webinar this summer, at least one person asked if the college would be permitting or organizing quarantine pods. The answer to both questions is no, as these pods would undermine the layered health strategies that permit us to return to campus in person. In fact, the student community agreement includes a commitment to adopt behaviors that would prevent the creation of quarantine pods.
Out of a strong commitment to the health of our campus community and our neighbors in Lorain County, Oberlin is taking every precaution and has adopted a very conservative approach to our return to campus. While we recognize that quarantine pods offer certain benefits, we do not feel that they outweigh the risks. With individuals coming to campus from all over the world, including hot spots, and with increasingly strong scientific evidence about transmission by asymptomatic people, quarantine pods represent a risk this community cannot afford to take at this time. The requirement to wear masks and stay physically distant in the common spaces of an apartment is understandably frustrating, but it is necessary for us to manage the congregate environment of a residential campus. Oberlin is not and cannot be a bubble into which COVID-19 does not pass. In the spirit of Oberlin’s long commitment to community and justice, including care for the physical health and wellbeing of others, the college will not use or permit quarantine pods. By foregoing this kind of intimacy with a few, we are able to join together as a residential educational community even during these challenging times.