UI Students share the mental implications that come with receiving positive test results

Asymptomatic or not, testing positive for COVID-19 impacts a person’s mental health and perception of the virus that sparked a pandemic. As cases continue to rise across campus, University of Iowa students are sharing their reactions to finding out they tested positive for the virus.


Abigail McDaniel

Photo illustration of Julia Eadler by Abigail McDaniel

Mary Hartel, News Reporter

As cases continue to rise at the University of Iowa, students who’ve tested positive for the virus told The Daily Iowan perceptions of the virus changed after receiving a positive test result, though this eventual fate seemed inevitable.

The UI reported 326 new self-reported COVID-19 cases among students on Monday, bringing the total number of infected students to 922 for the semester.

UI senior Anthony Molina said before testing positive for COVID-19, he was trying to follow social distancing guidelines and be cautious for the sake of others.

Molina, who was tested following his roommate’s confirmed case, said the stress of having to notify everyone he had come into contact with, and worrying he missed someone, was an uncertainty he hadn’t considered.

Managing class while being sick and wondering about the uncertainties that come with the virus, were added stressors, Molina said.

“Before it was more, I almost felt this sense of responsibility for other people. Which is good, like a sense that I was protecting my family and stuff like that,” Molina said. “But now after I tested positive, it never even crossed my mind how much this actually sucks — like for me also.”

Molina said he has noticed a mentality among students of thinking contracting the virus is inevitable at this point and wanting to just get it over with.

“I think that I’ve heard multiple times people say that they’re glad that they’re getting it over with now instead of during finals because there’s just so much pessimism about it since it seems that so many people are now getting it.” Molina said.

Molina said he, too, felt a sense of relief after testing positive, in the sense that he would not have to repeatedly get tested and quarantined as the spread and exposure increases in Iowa City.

UI sophomore Maddie Gilbertson said she also felt relieved, and wasn’t upset when she found out she tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Honestly I was kind of happy that I got it,” Gilbertson said, “…because then I’m like done with it.”

Gilbertson said she thinks she contracted the virus from going to the bars and parties, but her perceptions on the realities of the virus changed after having a more serious experience with the virus than she anticipated.

“I thought that it wasn’t as serious for people our age, so I was like, ‘who cares if you get it, because you’re not going to get sick,’ ” Gilbertson said. “I thought most people just had no symptoms or couldn’t smell or something, but I couldn’t move for like three days — it was [the sickest] I’ve ever been. So, I think it’s a lot more serious now than I thought it was [before].”

Gilbertson said while everyone who is going out takes the risk of exposure, she also felt feelings of embarrassment, after initially thinking she was immune to the virus following a negative test result earlier this summer.

UI senior Taylor Copp, who tested positive on Monday, said she was concerned about how her professors and peers would perceive her, noting that many have been judgmental and stereotypical of those contracting the virus right now.

Copp, who got tested after experiencing several symptoms, said she has been socially distancing and following all guidelines, but thinks she contracted the virus while working at a downtown bar.

“I just think it was just kind of scary because no one that I had come in contact that I knew of was positive,” Copp said. “So, it’s just like a complete stranger that I was in contact with or just a random surface I touched that had it.”

Now that she knows she has a confirmed case of COVID-19,  Copp said she will continue to self-isolate. Noting the positive test result did provide a sense of ‘peace of mind’, in knowing one thing for certain, and no longer having to speculate.

“I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t sad,” Copp said. “I kind of just wanted it to get it over with…”