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Students reflect on isolation and quarantine both on and off Grounds

On and off Grounds students do not have access to the same resources, such as delivery of food and medicine

<p>As of Monday, University-managed quarantine housing is at 26 percent capacity and isolation housing is at seven percent capacity.&nbsp;</p>

As of Monday, University-managed quarantine housing is at 26 percent capacity and isolation housing is at seven percent capacity. 

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All students living in on-Grounds housing this semester are instructed to be prepared to move to quarantine or isolation at any moment. To aid in this process, the University recommends that students prepare a “go-bag” containing essentials — such as toiletries, towels, medications, electronic devices and chargers, textbooks and clothes — that can be quickly retrieved if needed. 

Should they test positive for COVID-19, on Grounds students should expect to hear from the Dean on Call, who will provide them with a specific room assignment, provide access information and arrange any needed transportation to their isolation housing. Following their move to isolation, students will be contacted directly by an Isolation Liaison, who serves as the primary point of contact for non-medical requests or concerns. Students are not permitted to leave University-managed quarantine or isolation spaces unless they have a COVID-19 testing appointment or there is a critical health or safety concern.

Second-year Kinesiology student Ayanna Millner, who tested positive for COVID-19 in early September, said that she experienced some difficulties with this initial process and making contact with the Office of the Dean of Students. 

“The process of getting into isolation housing was confusing,” Millner said. “I did get a message from my assigned Isolation Liaison, but the message had no information about where I was going and any other procedures I needed to follow. After my test was taken, I still wasn’t contacted by ODOS and had to personally contact my liaison to even get ODOS to contact me.”

Once Millner made contact with ODOS, however, she was sent an email that included her housing assignment and reported there immediately on Sept. 9.

While students who live on Grounds and contract COVID-19 have access to isolation space in University-managed housing, which students report is adequate for the most part, off Grounds students do not have access to the same resources. This includes University-sponsored delivery of food, medicine and other essentials.

Students who are concerned they have contracted COVID-19 or have been exposed are required to return to their dorm room or off Grounds residence, quarantine from others and call Student Health and Wellness for guidance.

Per University policy, on Grounds students who reside in University housing that test positive for COVID-19 are assigned to an isolation space in dorms, apartments or a local hotel. Students may also choose to go home if safe to do so. Those who elect to use University-managed isolation or quarantine spaces are provided with specific resources for food, medicine and other essentials throughout their isolation period. 

“We understand that isolation (I) and quarantine (Q) may be a daunting and difficult experience for you,” the Office of the Dean of Students’ isolation and quarantine student guide reads. “Yet, this separation is critical for preventing the spread of COVID-19. It could save the lives of classmates, friends, and family.”

First-year College student Harry Farley reported similar trouble with the initial communication from the University. After speaking with a contact tracer, Farley moved to University-managed quarantine housing due to concerns about exposure to another student who had tested positive for the virus. On his second day in quarantine, Farley elected to get tested for COVID-19 — after receiving a positive test result, Farley struggled to communicate with the University about moving into isolation housing and the appropriate next steps. 

“I think the way U.Va. handled this process was a little disconnected — I had to talk to two or three different people before I actually found out what exactly I had to do and where I had to go,” Farley said. 

After the initial confusion, however, both Farley and Millner reported that they felt well-supported by the University. Millner said that the apartment she stayed in at University Gardens was already stocked with toilet paper, linens, trash bags and paper towels when she arrived, and the University dropped off a microwave about halfway through her isolation period. Both Farley and Millner reported receiving three meals per day, which were dropped off outside their doors by University staff. 

“Other than a few minor things, the quarantine housing is definitely adequate and U.Va. has done a good job of supporting me and other people that I know who are in quarantine housing,” Farley said. 

Students staying in University-managed quarantine and isolation spaces are also able to order medication for delivery via the U.Va. Pharmacy at Student Health and Wellness and have access to check-ins and support via telehealth through Student Health. 

Millner — who experienced minor symptoms — said that both a doctor from Student Health and her Isolation Liaison offered to call and check-in daily to monitor her condition. 

“I did feel supported by U.Va. because I had a doctor I could call, and I was also provided with any counseling on the mental health aspect of quarantine/isolation,” Millner said. 

The University instructs students who test positive for COVID-19 who reside off Grounds to stay in their own room and use their own bathroom — without using shared living spaces — for the duration of their isolation period. According to University policy, students who are unable to do so should contact the Dean on Call to discuss possible discounted hotel accommodations. 

Student Health and Wellness will provide ongoing check-ins and support via telehealth for students who reside off Grounds as well. 

While in isolation off Grounds, students are not provided with University-managed delivery of food, groceries or any other essentials — as such, students living in apartments with roommates near Grounds face unique challenges while navigating isolation. 

Second-year College student Isabel von Bargen-Burke noticed this lack of resources and took it upon herself to provide assistance to peers in isolation by providing a grocery and meal delivery service. Von Bargen-Burke reported that she helped nearly 30 friends while she ran this delivery service for several weeks from late August to mid-September. 

“A lot of my friends who were in quarantine expressed frustration with the lack of accessibility to groceries and other basic needs — especially at an affordable price —so I took it upon myself to help out and run some errands,” von Bargen-Burke said. 

Additionally, the Third Year Council has announced that it will be providing quarantine care packages free for students.

The University’s isolation and quarantine guide for off Grounds students recommends that students utilize contactless delivery services — such as GrubHub and Doordash — as well as enlist the help of friends and families to deliver groceries. Additionally, off Grounds students should expect to be contacted by a member of the I/Q Care Team, who serves as their primary point of contact for non-medical requests or concerns during business hours. 

The University has also created a resource page to help navigate the mental health aspect of isolation and quarantine. Additionally, University Counseling and Psychological Services, also known as CAPS, is available to provide remote support through telehealth counseling and psychiatry appointments as needed. 

Through the University’s wastewater testing program, four dorms have been tested so far for possible outbreaks of COVID-19 — Balz-Dobie, Lefevre, Kellogg and Echols. Testing of residents revealed ten additional cases in Balz Dobie, three cases in Lefevre, seven additional cases in Kellogg and two additional cases in Echols.

According to the University's COVID-19 tracker, University-managed quarantine housing is at 26 percent capacity and isolation housing is at seven percent capacity. As of Monday, there are 562 total cases of COVID-19, 508 of which are students. 241 cases are active, meaning they were reported within the last 10 days.

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