After topping every weekly record for COVID-19 positive cases at the University of North Florida (UNF) thus far, where and how to isolate has been rapidly brought to the forefront of many students’ minds. Students living on-campus may feel stuck in a bind as UNF’s current policy requires them to find a place to isolate off-campus if they test positive for COVID-19.
UNF’s current response to the question “Will there be a quarantine/isolation site on campus for those students who are exposed to or test positive for COVID-19?” is as follows:
“No. There is no quarantine/isolation site on UNF’s campus this semester. Students exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19 will be asked to quarantine/isolate off-campus. Students and their family/support network should discuss this possibility and develop a personal plan for approaching this possible situation as on campus space for isolation and quarantine will not be an option. Visit the following link for a listing of preferred hotels in the area: http://www.unf.edu/procurement/Hotels.aspx.”
View the entire policy and other answers to general COVID-19 questions here.
With many students attending UNF from overseas, they may be feeling similar pressures to develop a plan for if they test positive. Jack Casey, a second-year UNF Business Management major and international student from Wales, shared some of his concerns with Spinnaker:
“I believe that rule in place for testing positive doesn’t take into consideration international students. It’s like they’re assuming we live in Florida or nearby and there’s no guidance or help on what to do with expenses if we do test positive. I’m not sure what I will do if I test positive as I have no family nearby.” — Jack Casey
UNF Task Force Coordinator Bob Greenlaw and Interim President Pamella Chally met with Spinnaker last week to discuss COVID-19 plans at the university currently and moving forward.
Each student who planned to dorm at UNF was told in advance to create a plan in case they had to isolate due to COVID-19, according to Greenlaw. “Do they do that? You know the answer, no they don’t,” he said.
Written in the resident handbook, students are required to adhere to university expectations for COVID-19, as shown by sections A through D below.
At the beginning of the pandemic, UNF predetermined Osprey Landing’s Building W as a place where students could isolate themselves, an option no longer available due to the fact that the dorms are all full. “We’re a victim of our own success,” Greenlaw explained.
“If a student is in a very difficult situation about not being able to figure out a way to isolate, we’re the kind of university that will help them,” Interim President Chally added. “I’ll help them myself if that’s what they need.”
One of the concerns is that students may avoid reporting their contraction or exposure to COVID-19 to SHS. Addressing this potential issue, Greenlaw said they have asked Resident Assistants (RAs) to “keep an eye out” for people who are sick and let administrators know. A similar message has been communicated to faculty members, he said.
David Carnicero, a third-year international student from Spain studying International Business, briefly addressed a reason why many students may avoid testing on campus:
“I would prefer to do an at-home test and isolate myself but I think that the university should provide accommodations for the internationals for meals and housing when testing positive. I don’t know what I would do if I test positive but still, they are not encouraging people living on campus to get tested because of the rule with having to isolate off campus when we have no place to stay.” —David Carnicero
Of course, these concerns do not rest solely on the shoulders of international students, but also on other UNF students who don’t have the ability to go home and isolate themselves safely. Kaitlyn Vlasto, a third-year Biomedical Major at UNF, explained some of her uneasiness with the current UNF policies:
“It’s scary to know that at any time COVID-19 could wreck my life for two weeks. With my mom at home, who is immunocompromised, I can’t exactly make the drive even if I wanted to. It’s irritating to know that I need to stay on edge, that anytime might be the time I’m without a comforting area to stay while I’m sick.” —Kaitlyn Vlasto
Spinnaker posed a similar question to Greenlaw and Interim President Chally who restressed their earlier points.
“I feel for exactly what you’re saying, but it’s not something that we didn’t ask people to think about and prepare for, they just haven’t done it,” empathized Greenlaw.
Do you isolate yourself or do you attend class?
Building on a concern raised by the UNF Faculty Union (UFF-UNF) in their open letter, Greenlaw and Interim President Chally emphasized how they do not expect students to be missing too much class due to COVID-19. If a student does need isolation because of the virus, they can tell SHS and will be given an excuse note.
When taking any course at UNF, whether it be online, hybrid, or in person, students must be present for a predetermined number of hours per credit hour, as illustrated below.
“If you’re out sick and you can’t come to class but don’t tell us about it, you’ve got a problem,” Greenlaw stated. “I can’t help you with that problem because you’re avoiding the system. And the system is you go to Student Health and we take care of that.”
Overall, Greenlaw and Interim President Chally emphasized the fact that they, along with the rest of the administration, are 100 percent committed to helping any students who needs assistance finding an isolation location.
“It’s only the dorm students we’re talking about, you’re aware the vast majority of our students are not dorm students,” said Greenlaw. According to data supplied by the UNF Public Relations department, 3,235 students currently live in on-campus dorms. Overall, UNF teaches approximately 17,000 students.
He also claims they have already helped some international students find isolation in Airbnb’s around town.
“No one ever gets turned down and sleeps in the park at night, let me assure you,” closed Greenlaw.
Mask availability on campus
While Greenlaw expects the Omicron variant to “peak in January and be well on its way out of here by February,” UNF is continuing to provide various types of masks to the campus. In the past week, the administration has purchased 10,000 N95 masks for faculty and staff on top of a “large number” of surgical masks for students, according to Greenlaw.
“We purchased them because we wanted people to be as safe as possible,” added Interim President Chally.
More information on different classifications of masks from the CDC can be found here.
Similarly, at-home test kits are available for students, faculty, and staff in the Student Union, according to Greenlaw, and SHS has already confirmed their willingness to put in extra man hours for testing on campus if the need arises.
When asked why all students wouldn’t be receiving N95 masks, Greenlaw offered some explanation:
“If UNF gave [N95s] to all students, we would see them in the garbage in a day or two. They’re very hard to use, they’re hard to breathe through, they’re very uncomfortable, and people don’t like to wear them,” he said. “That’s the worry, that we wouldn’t get the bang for the buck.”
Spinnaker asked UNF Housing Director Bob Boyle for a comment and he gave the following response:
“Housing and Residence Life is trying to accommodate the needs of our students and has looked for ways to be flexible if bed space allows for it and if there is a safe way to do so without negatively impacting the health of our community. However, the demand for on-campus bed space continues to be high and due to space and safety limitations, all residents have been asked to develop a personal plan with their family and support network in the event they need to isolate or quarantine off campus. This approach to isolation and quarantine has been in place since fall 2021.”
For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected]