Live Q&A Addresses Student Concerns About Fall 2020 Housing, U Plans 2 Weeks of All Online Classes

A+model+room+of+the+standard+dormitory+furniture.+The+old+furniture+is+in+the+process+of+being+replaced+with+newer+furniture.

Dane Goodwin

A model room of the standard dormitory furniture. The old furniture is in the process of being replaced with newer furniture.

 

On Monday, July 27, Housing and Residential Education at the University of Utah held a live Q&A session to address concerns from those living on campus in Fall 2020.

The Q&A began with some introductions from HRE staff and then continued into a planned presentation to cover some general information. Then, student questions about various topics were answered. 

COVID-19 Testing and Move-In

“The first thing you’ll do when you come to campus at your assigned move-in time will be to receive your COVID-19 test. All students will need to receive that COVID-19 test before picking up the key to move into their space,” said Lexie Maschoff, assistant director for communications and assessment. 

Students will be given a wristband to show they have received their COVID-19 test. As test results may take more than 24 hours to come back, students are encouraged to self-isolate in their rooms until they receive their test results. 

“We will prioritize the test results for our on-campus residents … We ask that you are prepared to limit your exposure to others while you wait for your test results … you should be in your housing assignment, only leaving your room to pick up meals from the dining hall,” Maschoff said. 

Barb Remsburg, the director of HRE explained what testing will actually look like for students. 

“The test is not the tickle your brain type test; students will do their own self-testing, so that will be testing the front side of your nose, and with a separate swab or Q-tip, testing down your throat, and those will go into a vile,” Remsburg said. 

Remsburg addressed the concern of positive test results as well.

“We know there are some students who will come back, they won’t feel sick, but they will be positive. What that means is we have a core management team who will be reaching out to those students and you’ll have the option if you live locally and you want to isolate at home, you can do so. The other roommates will need to quarantine in place, which means you will be in your apartment or suite for 14 days, and we will bring food to you,” Remsburg said.

Remsburg also talked about the reality of negative test results. 

“Negative test results, we are working on how to get that information back to you as well. To be honest, we are going to focus on the positive test results initially,” Remsburg said. 

Self-Isolation

During the Q&A, it was also brought up that in certain dorms like Lassonde, specific rooms will be assigned to bathrooms to limit the number of people who are in one space. However, if anyone in that group of students who share a bathroom tests positive for COVID-19, then all of those students must self-isolate for 10-14 days. 

“What we have done for this year is pre-assign which rooms will utilize that restroom, to again reduce exposure to a really small group of folks … If someone were to become positive with COVID in one of those spaces, yes, the folks who share that restroom will be contacted and be asked to quarantine,” said Timothy Davis, associate director for residential education.

HRE has set aside multiple isolation rooms for students who do test positive and do not have anywhere to relocate. 

“If you are in any type of suite environment, where you are sharing a restroom with others, and you become COVID positive, you would need to move, and the other person would need to quarantine. That is the reality of what this fall will look like. We have a good number of rooms set aside in order to support you …,” Remsburg said. 

Regardless of if a student has a meal plan or not, they will have food sent to their rooms during self-isolation as a way to limit contact with others. 

Online Instruction and Housing

Multiple questions were sent in regarding the recent announcement from U leadership which states, “Based on models developed by University of Utah Health infectious disease epidemiologist Lindsay Keegan, university leaders decided to shift to online classwork from September 28 to October 9.”

While a majority of classes are online for the full semester, this period of completely online instruction is designed as a way to increase self-isolation among the student body, and be a “circuit breaker” for the spread of the virus.

“Housing will not be impacted by this online two-week period … We are asking residents to be mindful of what they’re doing during that two-week time, as that two-week time is intended to limit the exposure and spread of COVID-19 on our campus … We ask residents to consider not traveling during that time,” Maschoff said. 

Maschoff also explained if students leave campus when classes become fully online around Thanksgiving, they are allowed to leave everything in their rooms for when they return for the Spring 2021 semester. 

In addition, housing will remain open should the U transition all classes to a fully online format for the Spring 2021 semester. 

“We are planning that housing will remain open now and if the university continues to tweak classes to be in an online presence, we will maintain open,” Maschoff said. 

Dining, the Student Life Center, and other Resources

In addition to housing, campus dining is going to look different this year as well. 

“Dining has increased its to-go services and also is introducing a mobile app so you can order ahead a meal that will be prepared and stored for you and also has modified their passageways through our residential facilities for you to be able to pick up your meal with ease,” Davis said.

Davis acknowledged college life will continue as normal with things like dating and making new friends; however, all of this must be done while staying six feet apart. 

“We know that life is supposed to go on as normal … All of these things that are a part of going to college, we’re just going to need to do so in a physically distant way,” Davis said. 

Davis also explained resident advisors will not be doing their usual routine of walking around hallways and knocking on doors. Instead, they will connect with students virtually and discuss the best ways to get together to build connections. 

“We will be doing [community meetings] electronically this year, over Zoom accounts … This year, that resident advisor will connect with you virtually and establish what the best way is to connect with you. Maybe going on walks outside and observing social distancing, maybe meeting together in a study lounge,” Davis said. 

When asked a question about school facilities such as the student life center, Remsburg explained campus and its resources will remain open. 

“Specifically talking about the student life center, if you currently belong to a community center or some sort of fitness area, you may know that there are some stipulations: an exercise class may be smaller, some might be virtual, swim lanes might be one person per lane. This is the type of framework that you could expect at the student life center,” Remsburg said. 

Remsburg also said the student life center will only be allowing a certain amount of people in the building at one time, with priority given to students. 

In terms of air circulation within individual rooms, Remsburg explained most of the air within student dorms is sent directly outside, and not re-circulated. 

“In our large air handlers, we have changed the filters to CDC suggested MERV-13. In student rooms, they have operable windows; the intent is to get air moving. In all of our residence hall spaces, the venting actually goes out, so there is not sharing among student spaces. The only space that that is applicable is in the Lassonde pods,” Remsburg said. 

The Q&A ended with closing remarks, in which some HRE staff addressed their goal to make this next semester a successful one for students. 

“From all of us here at housing, we take it very seriously that you should be a successful student at the University of Utah and that you should be able to thrive during your time as a resident. From that, we are taking on a lot of responsibility on how we can do our part, and ask that you all make those changes to protect the health and wellness of others,” Davis said.

 

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