Some residents of Boyd Hall who were moved into quarantine following a hall-wide COVID-19 outbreak said the experience showed a lack of adequate planning from Ohio University due to their poor experiences with food and overall communication.
After 37 of Boyd’s 94 residents tested positive for COVID-19, the 57 residents who tested negative were moved into quarantine dorm rooms Oct. 9. Those who tested positive were moved into isolation rooms.
OU has eight residence halls set aside for quarantine and isolation, Carly Leatherwood, a university spokesperson, said in an email. Some of the Boyd residents were moved into Adams Hall.
Emily Allen, a sophomore studying publication design who was moved into quarantine, said Boyd students received emails by floor section notifying them they had to be moved out by 10 p.m. The university shuttled students in groups of five to the Living Learning Center on South Green, where they traded their Boyd room keys for quarantine room keys.
The email did not contain much other information, Tyce Patt, a sophomore studying marketing, said. Patt was unsure of what he needed to bring and ultimately packed about two boxes of clothes, his backpack and items he needed for school.
Not much else happened that night after moving in, Patt said.
Within the first three days of quarantine, Patt received a phone call and a few emails explaining the rules for quarantine. The phone call was from his COVID-19 case manager, which is a registered nurse assigned to monitor a student’s symptoms, connect them to resources and provide documentation for school or work needs, Leatherwood said.
That was the only phone call Patt received while in quarantine.
Case managers are supposed to call students in quarantine every two days, Leatherwood said. Students need to answer emails and set up times for their check-ins with their Campus COVID Liaison, an individual assigned to help connect quarantined students with services and process their information to leave quarantine.
Leatherwood said the university has had issues with students being responsive. This has led to additional texts from the Athens City-County Health Department being sent out, along with additional communications from OU about the need to cooperate with the care team.
Patt said communication with OU throughout all of the quarantine process was pretty poor.
“Everything changed in one day,” Patt said. “I didn't expect that to happen. And so then all of a sudden, I'm in the quarantine hall, and I don't know if I have any questions. I'm not sure … do I call my case manager? And I'm getting emails from 10 different people about it, too. So I think there’s just a lot of confusion with it right now, and I think they’re more worried about regulating things than actually making sure that students are in a good environment and actually safe and protected.”
Allen, on the other hand, said communication was adequate.
Since she wasn’t sick, Allen didn’t need many services OU was offering those in quarantine and isolation. She said she still received a lot of emails from OU reminding her of what was at her disposal.
During the first day of the quarantine, OU provided food in the lobby of Adams Hall for students, Sebastian Beal, a sophomore studying marketing, said. How long the food was left out for was a concern for both him and Patt.
“That food sat there for at least 24 to 38 hours,” Beal said. “And it was actually rotten, and the entire building and lobby smelled like this terrible, rotten food.”
OU also has an online form where students can order meals that can be heated up in a microwave.
Patt said he didn’t order food the first couple of days because he didn’t have information on how it was done.
The food services have been one of Allen’s biggest frustrations with quarantine.
“Quality-wise, it’s just gross,” Allen said. “To me, it feels like whatever Nelson doesn’t serve. It’s like the leftovers.”
Leatherwood said it’s important to the university that nutritious meals are accessible in quarantine. The university appreciates all feedback it has heard about its food services.
Patt said the environment of quarantine made it hard for him to focus on schoolwork. The environment, combined with the food, made him decide to go home for most of the mandated period. To go home, Patt emailed his case manager, who told him to notify whoever was on-duty in the hall that he was leaving.
“Morale is definitely at an all-time low in quarantine,” Patt said. “It’s just mentally rough on people to do that … I think they could definitely improve on that a lot.”
Allen also struggled with the environment of quarantine.
“It's been just a little depressing, kind of, being by yourself 24/7,” she said. “Of course it gets boring. I would love to go to Baker and get a coffee or something like that, like the bare minimum. So it's still a little lame. But, I mean, that's what I expected.”
Boyd residents were able to leave quarantine Oct. 21 at 1 p.m., which Beal said was a frustrating process for everyone he knew.
When Patt called the Athens City-County Health Department to request information that would clear him to leave, he was told the department never received notification from OU that he was in quarantine. Patt ended up missing part of his class beginning at 2 p.m. because of the mix-up.
Allen said she had higher expectations for OU’s COVID-19 plans.
“I'm disappointed that they didn't expect this,” Allen said. “They emailed us about what (an) amazing plan that they had, and it seems to me that they had absolutely nothing in plan, other than shut up the kids that need to be in quarantine and then hope that they're responsible as young adults.”
Patt said better communication from OU would help those in quarantine be more informed and less stressed. He is working in conjunction with the College of Business dean to host a live event where students can provide feedback on their quarantine experiences, which he said is important to have moving forward.
“I feel like most of the decisions being made right now are made without any student input, and that's definitely something that needs to change, especially when it's the students who are being quarantined, not the people writing the quarantine hall rules,” Patt said. “And I understand ... it's very serious, especially for the college—they have liabilities that they face if anything happens. So I just think there's a lot of cleaning up that can be done on the technical side of things.”