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She’s been quarantined for three days, and already Emery Warkentine is worried about running out of things to do.
The 17-year-old started by watching all the Disney princess movies. Then she moved on to calling her friends. She tried exercising, too. And she dabbled in painting when she found some blank canvases.
“They say you are your own worst critic,” she said with a laugh, “but they really aren’t very good.”
She’s got 11 more days to go.
Warkentine is a junior at Hunter High School in West Valley City and is among the more than 2,700 students and teachers there whom the Utah Health Department is requiring to be in quarantine. A student went to class there Thursday and Friday with symptoms and tested positive for the coronavirus. Now, anyone and everyone who was in the building is considered “probable contacts to a confirmed case,” said Ben Horsley, spokesman for Granite School District.
“We don’t know which of these people have been exposed or not,” he added, “so everyone is affected.”
Because of the unique situation and threat of spread, Hunter High will be closed entirely. Students there will not be working on assignments from home for the next two weeks — unlike other K-12 schools that will move classes online under an order from the governor. They will instead be required to stay inside at all times to not expose the public.
One of the biggest challenges then, said Warkentine, is for students to try to keep themselves entertained while under quarantine — and not focus too much on whether they’re going to get sick.
“I can’t leave my house or even my room,” she said during a phone call Monday. “I can basically go from my room to the bathroom and that’s it.”
Warkentine’s grandparents live with her family at home, so she’s trying to stay away to avoid possibly spreading anything to them. She’s got a little storage of drinks and snacks in her room, including her favorite Reese’s candies. And she’s trying to remain positive and busy.
She talks every day with her best friend, Emma Dolar. They’re both on Hunter High’s cheerleading team, but all practices and meets have been canceled through the end of the school year.
“I was looking forward to those competitions,” Dolar said. “But I guess it just is what it is. We’re getting through it day by day.”
Students at two other Utah schools — Entheos Academy, a charter school with campuses in Magna and Kearns, and Wasatch High in Heber City — are also quarantined after classmates were diagnosed with the virus. Overall, the state’s 39 cases include 4 kids and 10 visitors.
Family members of these students do not need to quarantine unless they experience symptoms, primarily a dry cough, fever and shortness of breath.
But the kids and teachers are asked not to leave their home for any reason and shouldn’t visit with friends.
Kaitlyn Hollaway said that’s particularly hard because students at other schools are allowed to still hang out in small groups. The sophomore at Hunter High, though, understands the need to prevent spread.
So far, just three days in, she’s joked that she’s watched an entire season of “Grey’s Anatomy.” The medical TV show maybe wasn’t the best choice, she admitted, to reduce her stress about the virus.
“I’m a little nervous,” Hollaway added. “We don’t really know what’s going to happen or if things are going to get worse.”
For privacy reasons, the state is not releasing any information about the students who tested positive. And Hollaway has stressed about whether or not she came in contact with the individual at Hunter High.
She was at work Friday when she found out. Her classmate Jothan Orlandini was on a bus traveling to Denver for a wrestling match. The team was about two hours away when they found out and by the time they got there, the event was canceled.
The whole drive back, Orlandini said, he thought about the virus. “I was kind of panicky,” he added. “My anxiety was crazy for the first few days.”
Since then, like Hollaway, he’s also been watching “Grey’s Anatomy.” He has also turned to zombie movies. Those, as well as learning more about the virus, have made him feel a little better.
“That’s my deal,” he joked. “I like apocalypse shows.”
The 16-year-old said while he’s quarantined, he wants to learn how to cook. First up: “fancier versions of eggs, like an omelette,” he said with a laugh. Orlandini also plans to exercise, suggesting, “I can’t sit on my butt for two weeks.”
Horsley, spokesman for the district, said he appreciates the ways that kids and teachers are coping. But he’s frustrated that a student showed up to school with symptoms and caused the massive quarantine in the first place.
“Now 2,750 peoples’ lives have been changed for the next two weeks — dramatically — and that was unnecessary,” he said. “It was totally preventable.”
Warkentine joked that maybe if she runs out of other things to do, she’ll crack open her textbooks.
But, for now, she’s still got nine empty canvases to fill.