With guidance from public health professionals and other college and university housing officers, the University of Utah set up a system of isolation rooms for students who test positive for COVID-19.
Since Aug. 15, 2020, there have been 128 positive COVID-19 cases out of 62,000 people in the campus community.
“If a person is positive for COVID-19, they are quickly placed in an isolation space. When we talk with the resident, we ask them who they have been in around for more than 15 minutes at a distance of 6 feet or less, with or without a face covering,” said Barb Remsburg, director of housing and residential education.
Contact tracing is then carried out and those who are considered “close contacts” will be notified that they must be placed in an isolation room.
“Residents who are identified as a contact of another person — maybe a classmate, family member or friend — are also placed into a quarantine space,” Remsburg said.
Students in apartment-style living who test positive for the virus are usually sent to the University Guest House which has 100 rooms designated for isolation. The roommates of this student are able to remain in their original residence.
“As most students have now arrived, the level of shared space in an apartment would typically mean that after the person that tested positive for COVID-19 moves into an isolation space, that the remaining roommates would quarantine in place in their apartment or be relocated to alternate quarantine spaces,” Remsburg said.
The roommates on the contact list of someone who tested positive must remain in their room, with their meals delivered outside the apartment door.
“For those that have had contact with someone that tested positive for COVID 19 they are able to stay in their apartment. The Res ed team still follows the same procedures,” said Cha McNeil, resident director for the social justice advocates.
Students in isolation are solely responsible for following the rules of isolation. If they leave their room, they may face serious consequences.
“Residents are responsible to remain in isolation and quarantine. Failure to do so would lead to significant housing student conduct charges for endangering the greater residential community,” Remsburg said.
Because students in isolation are not allowed to leave their rooms, they order meals a day ahead and have them delivered to their door.
“Although we all have PPE we take extra measures by simply leaving the bag at the door of the spaces our residents live in… walking away and then texting the resident that their food is outside,” McNeil said.
Isolation rooms are sanitized in between each use to limit the spread of the virus.
Being in isolation can be mentally and physically draining, so HRE has resources in place to support students who are isolating.
“A Resident Director connects with each student on a daily basis to see how they are doing, respond to any needs they may have, and to be a resource for the resident,” Remsburg said.
If a student is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 they are asked to submit the self-report form so appropriate measures can be taken.
“It is so important that residents report their symptoms or that they are being tested on the HRE Self-Report Form. This enables us to isolate the positive or potential positive person as quickly as possible,” Remsburg said.