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Students at the University of Richmond faced delays in communication and transportation moving into isolation and quarantine units during the weekend of Feb. 13, according to multiple students who were exposed to COVID-19 last week.
UR has 15 active COVID-19 cases as of Feb. 15, according to UR’s COVID-19 Dashboard, which is a significant decrease since the beginning of the spring semester.
The number in cases fell in recent weeks after UR reported a peak of 91 new cases during the week of Jan. 24, according to the dashboard. The peak was preceded by 81 new cases the week of Jan. 17, and followed by 70 new cases the week of Jan. 31, according to the dashboard.
Taylor Grindle, a junior, went into isolation over the weekend after her roommate tested positive for COVID-19, she said.
Grindle said her roommate felt sick and called the Student Health Center on Feb. 13, and was told by a nurse to monitor her symptoms. After the symptoms did not subside, Grindle's roommate called the health center a second time at approximately 4:45 p.m. and did not receive an answer.
The health center closes at 4:30 p.m. during the week and is closed on weekends, according to the health center's website. Students can call a nurse advice line at the health center after-hours to speak to a registered nurse about health concerns, but after-hours nurses cannot assist with scheduling appointments, according to the website.
Grindle's roommate received a COVID-19 test at an urgent care location and tested positive on Feb. 13, she said. Grindle said her roommate called the health center a third time after receiving the test result and received an answer, but was told that she would be contacted later that day because a high number of calls were coming in.
Sarah Mercer, administrative assistant at the health center, directed The Collegian’s request for comment about the intake of students into isolation from Feb. 11 to Feb. 14 to University Communications.
Cynthia Price, associate vice president of media and public relations, did not respond to The Collegian's request for comment.
Grindle's roommate called a fourth time after she did not hear back from the health center for a few hours and was told she may be able to go to into isolation that night. Grindle's roommate was unable to go to an isolation unit on a golf cart because of the ice storm, so she decided to walk, Grindle said.
"We helped [my roommate] carry her stuff over to the isolation unit," Grindle said. "The police unlocked the wrong isolation unit for her so there was other people's trash in there, and we had to call the police again to open another isolation unit."
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Grindle and her other roommates called the health center the next day and were taken into isolation, she said.
Nico Ellis, a sophomore, went into isolation on Feb. 14 after learning he had been potentially exposed to COVID-19, he said. Ellis said he had felt poorly on Feb. 11 and later discovered he was in contact with people who tested positive.
Ellis and his roommate, who also felt sick, called the health center after 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 11 and did not get a response. Ellis said his roommate called the health center the next morning and was able to speak with someone.
Ellis's roommate went into isolation on Feb. 13, and his two suitemates were not considered close contacts and are staying in their room, he said.
"We felt a little bit confused as to the lack of urgency in moving us, but we did understand the school is dealing with a lot this semester in terms of cases and the ice storm so it was kind of a bad predicament," he said. "It took us two days to be moved at all. Once I was told I would be moved, it wasn't a very challenging process."
Ellis was tested on Feb. 15 and did not know whether he had COVID-19 as of that morning but was experiencing a loss of taste and smell, he said.
A student living off-campus, who spoke with The Collegian on the condition of anonymity, was told that he would not be able to isolate on campus after being exposed to COVID-19 last week, he said.
The student said he was the only person in his house who was exposed, so he decided to isolate in his room while he came up with an extended quarantine plan.
"My roommates wanted me to quarantine on campus, and I agreed that would just make things a lot easier for everybody," he said.
The student called the health center the night of Feb. 13 and but was unable to speak to someone, he said. The student said he was able to get in contact with a nurse the next morning.
"I was speaking with some nurses at student health trying to sort out quarantine on campus, and as soon as I mentioned that I lived off campus there was kind of a long pause and they basically told me, 'You can't really do that because if you live off campus you have to quarantine off campus,'" he said.
Undergraduate students residing off-campus who test positive for COVID-19 may be assigned to an on-campus isolation unit if space is available, according to UR's website. Otherwise, off-campus students are instructed to self-isolate in their residence or to return home, if medically stable and traveling by private car, according to the website.
Other students who test positive will be instructed to self-isolate at home, and non-residential students identified as close contacts will be instructed to self-quarantine at home, according to the website.
The student said he was surprised that he couldn't quarantine on campus, but understood that off-campus students have different access to campus facilities.
"It was annoying at the time because I was in a stressed place, and the university was imposing rules on me but not really helping me follow those rules exactly," the student said. "But I still understand [that off-campus students cannot quarantine on campus] as a concept."
The student is quarantining in a hotel to maintain distance from his roommates, and will be tested on Feb. 16, he said.
UR has 287 cumulative cases for the spring semester, and a rate of 3.1% total positivity, according to the dashboard.
Contact investigative editor Morgan Howland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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