Many Tests, Never a Final

Grateful for the privilege, and weary of the drudgery, of repeated COVID-19 surveillance

Author: Indonesia Brown ’22

I begin my Thursday morning at 6 a.m. with tea and reading for class. I was too tired to read after football practice last night. My body is physically sore and my head is pounding from virtual classes and meetings the day before. I flip through the pages of a book detailing women working in the 1960s without truly absorbing any of the words. I just needed to find some key points for a class discussion enough to make my professor think that I read the four chapters in their entirety.

I noted some page numbers and a few quotes with green pen onto a page in my notebook delegated to Tuesday-Thursday classes. I separated my classes into folders and notebooks according to the days of the week in an attempt to feel organized during a time that I felt I had no control over life.

  I left my room promptly at 6:30. I went over my checklist in my head:

  • Backpack
  • Water bottle  
  • Phone
  • Face mask

The last item was the most important. Notre Dame had mandated masks in order to protect students, faculty and staff when we all returned to campus in August. I left my dorm on the northeast end of campus and began my trek to the far southwestern section of Notre Dame Stadium. With the right songs coming from my wireless earbuds, I could keep a good pace and get to my location in 15 minutes. I begin my song lineup with “Love Me Less” by Max and begin to push forward on the walk — my feet matching the pace of the high-tempo song.

The campus is eerily quiet this early in the morning. Students are not moving around yet and most of the campus staff works from home so they will not be here at all today. I could hear creaks and moans from buildings as I walked past some of the newer dorms on campus. I even heard a low hum from a car passing by Library Circle.

As I turned the corner around the front end of the library, I saw the first people I came into contact with all day. There were ROTC students running around the reflecting pool. I peeked into the water to see bodies running up the side of Touchdown Jesus.

All of the students were wearing masks and they ran in near silence until one member of the group called out “15.” I do not know if this was a time or laps or distance, and without seeing the students faces, I could not connect the number to their emotions. I thought about what the number may mean as I continued to the front of the stadium.

Brown Covid Essay
The author keeps an eye on her managerial responsibilities.

I reached my destination and I entered a line that I had become more than familiar with over the first few weeks of school. I worked with the football team, and the student managers got tested as often as the athletes and coaching staff did. I entered a winding line into the concourse of the stadium where an usher wearing a mask pointed me to the non-athlete line. I knew that I was supposed to follow the arrows of purple tape down the path, but I heeded his instructions just like I did every Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

I find myself six feet behind another student manager and we exchange kind eyes. It was too early to fully converse but we wanted to show sympathy for each other. We could both attest to the frustration of this mundane routine of COVID-19 testing. We woke up as the sun was rising to walk 15 minutes to the stadium. Our noses never stopped being sore from swabbing four times a week. And we had to listen to the same instructions from the same team of doctors and nurses each time.

I felt lucky to be able to get tested as often as possible. I came into the school year still concerned about my grandparents, who had contracted COVID and became very sick. The ability to get tested was a privilege but consistent testing got overwhelming and tiring.

I stepped up and one of the football team doctors waved me over. He asked me how my morning was so far. I responded with, “It has been good. My name is Indonesia Brown and my date of birth is 02-07-2000. I hope you are doing well too.” I became so used to the questions that my brain went through the pattern without having to be prompted.

After confirming on his computer, he asked me to sanitize my hands. I was still wearing a mask, but the smell of the hand sanitizer permeated the air. It smelled like cheap vodka and rubbing alcohol mixed together. I held back a gag and rubbed the liquid into my hands.

The doctor then passed me the cotton swab and reminded me to do ten big circles in each nostril with the same end of the swab. I took a deep breath, leaned my head back and began the circles. After the first nostril, my nose began itching. I took a second and then went through the same process with the second nostril. Then I carefully placed the end of the swab into a small tube and the doctor put a lid on it.

He asked me to use the hand sanitizer again, and I did without any complaint. I followed the arrows out of the concourse and proceeded to the dining hall for breakfast before my 8 a.m. class.

Indonesia (Indy) Brown double-majored in political science and psychology with minors in journalism and Africana studies. She was involved with her dorm’s executive team, the Pre-Law Student Board and the Office of Student Enrichment. A football equipment manager from her sophomore year, she was in charge of personnel as a senior.