A week and a half after returning to the University of Mississippi, many students who live in campus housing are in quarantine and isolation. Here’s what we know.
Not all students in quarantine are staying on campus
Ashley Mejia, Gabby Carmosino and Jordan Pastro were still searching for a place to stay at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday after the university told them they needed to go into quarantine that morning.
The three women, all freshmen, were told to go into quarantine after informing the university health center that they were in a room in Crosby Hall with five other women the night before, one of whom tested positive for COVID-19 the next morning.
“We all freaked out, and we thought, ‘Well, we need to get tested, but we can’t get tested yet because the results aren’t going to be accurate,’” Mejia said. “So, we called the health center and asked if we could get tested, but they said no because it’s not accurate, and we don’t have any symptoms yet.”
The Centers for Disease Control recently updated its guidelines and now says that people who come into close contact with someone who tests positive do not need to get a test unless they develop symptoms or their care provider or local health department advises them to.
Mejia, Carmosino and Pastro decided not to quarantine in the buildings provided by student housing because they were told that if they tested positive while on campus, they would be moved to Brown Hall for isolation and would no longer have the option to isolate off campus.
“A lot of the girls in Martin and Crosby who tested positive or are quarantining — that didn’t want to stay in Brown — got hotels or Airbnbs together,” Mejia said.
After talking with their respective parents, Mejia decided to spend her quarantine in a hotel, Carmosino planned to drive home to Georgia and Pastro chose to get tested. If she tests negative, she will go home to Virginia, but if her COVID test is positive, she will rent an Airbnb with other women she knows who have also tested positive.
The university’s COVID-19 dashboard does not appear to show the total number of students in quarantine
The Daily Mississippian has confirmed that the male wing of the fifth floor of Residence Hall 3 and the 3rd and 10th floors of Martin Hall have been directed to quarantine after at least three residents of each floor tested positive for COVID-19.
The UM COVID-19 Dashboard shows 37 student housing residents in quarantine, 14 student housing residents in isolation and six outbreaks of three or more positive cases in on campus housing. One wing of a floor in Residence Hall 3 can house up to 39 students, and each floor in Martin Hall houses up to 47 students.
A university spokesperson said that students who are sent into quarantine because of exposure, or isolation due to infection of the novel coronavirus, are given the option to relocate to on-campus spaces provided by student housing, return to their permanent residence or find another place off campus to stay.
It is unclear if the numbers shown on the COVID-19 dashboard refer to only students choosing to stay on campus to quarantine and isolate, or the total number of students in quarantine and isolation. University communications did not respond to requests for clarification about the numbers shown on the dashboard by time of publication.
Some students have had a difficult experience with the quarantine process
Caroline Jett, a freshmen general business major, was sent to quarantine at The Inn at Ole Miss after receiving an email from the university. The email, sent at around 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday, said everyone living on her floor in Martin Hall needed to evacuate the building in the morning and quarantine after at least three residents of the floor had tested positive for COVID-19.
“The moment it came to my phone, I didn’t even see it, but our friend from two doors down banged on our door, and all of the sudden it was insane. Something out of a movie honestly,” Jett said. “Everyone, at the same time, rushed out of their rooms panicking and screaming; lots of girls crying because they had nowhere to go, and no one’s parents were answering because it was so late.”
Ashley Raffkind, another freshman Martin resident, decided to quarantine at her family’s condo in Oxford rather than in the spaces provided by student housing. She said student housing could have handled the announcement better.
“It was just a hot mess because they told us super late at night,” Raffkind said. “If they had told us earlier in the day, then it would have been a lot smoother, I think.”
Some students have had trouble with the food delivery system provided by student housing
Students in quarantine on campus can use the GET app to request food delivery from Ole Miss Dining locations. One student quarantined at The Inn said that their dinner order was canceled after the app had an apparent crash, and another student in isolation at The Village apartments said he had technical difficulties trying to order lunch. Jett said that the app was difficult for her to use, so she ended up ordering food from another delivery service.
“I have a friend who’s been quarantined at The Village right now and has gotten the same meal three days in a row, and he says it’s just not good,” Jett said.
Raffkind said part of the reason she decided to quarantine off campus was to cook her own meals.
“We got groceries delivered here so that way we could make actual meals, and it’s a lot bigger space,” Raffkind said.
Some of the buildings student housing is using for isolation are almost 80 years old
Brown Hall —the building where Mejia, Carmosino and Pastro say they were told they would have to isolate if they tested positive — is a traditional dorm building with communal bathrooms. The building was slated to be closed this school year amid declining enrollment, but is now being used for isolation housing.
One Residence Hall 3 resident who tested positive for COVID-19 said that he has been isolated at The Village apartments near the law school since Monday. The Village, which used to house families, graduate students and student housing staff, has not been used by student housing since Aug. 2016.
“There is just not enough quality of life left in the buildings to continue to maintain them beyond Aug. 2016 as residential facilities. The units have far exceeded the life expectancy of the 1940’s construction,” student housing assistant director of marketing Jennifer McClure told hottytoddy.com in 2016.