Students voice isolation housing concerns

Students placed in isolation housing were given a health and hygiene kit that included hand sanitizer and a mask. Photo by Jon Mirador

Arianna Rackham, Contributing Writer

Junior Haya Hamid said living in VCU’s quarantine housing –– one of several methods used by the university to control the spread of COVID-19 on campus — was best described as a “series of unfortunate events.”

The health, physical education and exercise science major said she didn’t receive food from the university for three days. She said she tried calling VCU housing coordinators at Grace and Broad multiple times before breaking her quarantine to feed herself on the afternoon of the third day.

“It was always me reaching out to them,” the junior said, concluding that VCU housing coordinators’ “intercommunication” was lacking.  

Hamid said after housing coordinators were aware that she broke quarantine, she had to attend a VCU Student Conduct Board hearing and almost faced an automatic cancellation of her housing contract, disciplinary probation for tenure at the university, and/or mandatory participation in a wellness class. 

Hamid’s case was dismissed, but she said the stress of the incident inevitably caused her to drop a course during her first couple weeks of school. 

Matthew Lovisa, director of communications and marketing at VCU, said in an email that the terms of suspension for students found violating policy is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Lovisa said removal from housing and interim suspension from the university are possible consequences students may face for “leaving their room prior to being released by Residential Life and Housing.”

“When a student fails to observe rules and regulations issued by the university, such as honoring the quarantine and isolation process, their presence poses a risk to the health and safety of other individuals within the VCU community.” — Matthew Lovisa, director of communications and marketing at VCU

There are currently seven students in isolation and 29 students in quarantine, according to VCU’s COVID-19 dashboard. Isolation separates those who test positive for the coronavirus from those who are not sick, while quarantine is for those who are not sick but may have been exposed.

Meredith Farmer and Rachel Benfield, two sophomore roommates quarantining together at Grace and Broad, said they were concerned with how late in the day their food was delivered and the lack of supplies in their health and hygiene kit.

In isolation and quarantine, meals were dropped off near students’ doors to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Photos courtesy of quarantined student

Farmer said she was not allowed to have her cat in quarantine, despite it being an emotional support animal. Farmer said the policy for the removal of service animals should be changed or reconsidered, calling it “very bad for the depressed.” The policy is based on the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found under its “if you have pets” section online.

Students in isolation will be provided with hygiene kit supplies, nine meals for three days and linens, according to VCU’s Residential Life and Housing website.

The guide recommends students make a COVID-19 preparation kit with 14 days worth of supplies before moving into the residence halls, in case they contract the virus and must be put into isolation housing.

Hamid and Farmer said they did not know about making a kit and were unprepared for quarantine. Benfield said buying 14 days worth of fresh supplies that she may never use was too expensive.

“It’s just too much to ask college students on a budget,” Benefield said.

VCU spokesperson Michael Porter said it’s important for students who have tested positive or been exposed to COVID-19 to stay in isolation in order to “stay away from the healthy members of our community.”

Porter said an “overwhelming majority” of VCU students in isolation and quarantine are taking the pandemic seriously.

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