On April 5, the A. Ray Olpin Student Union at the University of Utah closed after a member of their custodial staff tested positive for COVID-19.
“The challenge is people would come in, and even though we would have chairs behind barricades, they would sit in the food court areas or they would come and just sit in the lounge spaces and be coughing and hacking,” said Whit Hollis, the Union’s director.
“My staff was protected and would try to clean that up as soon as they can. Clearly we missed something.”
The Union provides various resources such as food and technology to both students and staff.
“We worked very hard to keep the Union open, because we knew that it would be one of the only places where students that did not have laptops or access to Wi-Fi, etc. would have to be able to come to work in the computer lab. It was a very difficult decision, but it was obviously the right one, we believe,” Hollis said.
Although the Union is closed, the Feed U Pantry, which is usually inside the Union building, is still providing its services, but in a different way than normal.
“We’re setting up a biweekly pickup of food available to anyone, like curbside pickup, in front of the Union building. There’s a drive roundabout right in front of the Union that people will be able to drive through on Mondays and Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.,” said Ben Chenot, the current director of the Feed U Pantry and a sophomore majoring in biology and minoring in nutrition.
There is an online form for clients to fill out necessary information such as their household size, UID and specific food preferences. Before arriving at the Union, people must fill out this form so that the staff of the pantry know who will be arriving on what day and what specific food they have requested.
“Whenever they come to the Union there will be a sign that says ‘park here and then call this number (the Union services desk)’ and we’ll have someone staffed there during that time period. That person will just bring out the bagged food to that individual and set them down outside the car and walk away so that there is no contact between the client and the staffer,” Chenot said.
As of right now, the Union will be closed until April 20, to ensure two full weeks for staff to self-quarantine and custodial staff to disinfect the entire building.
“When we do open, it is important to understand that the Union is not a public building,” Hollis said. “When we do reopen, we will be restricting the people who can use the building to current students, faculty and staff only. That is just due to an overabundance of caution in keeping the people safe.”
Editor’s note: Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, tiredness and shortness of breath. These symptoms are believed to occur between two and 14 days after a person is exposed to the disease. If you have these symptoms and have recently come into contact with a person who is known to have COVID-19, or if you have recently traveled to an area with community spread of the disease, you should call your doctor. Areas with community spread of COVID-19 are believed to include China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Seattle. If you do not have a doctor who you visit regularly, please call the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 or the University of Utah Health hotline at 801-587-0712. Do not go to a healthcare facility without first making arrangements to do so.