Credit: Nicole Herhusky | Mustang News

One hundred thirty five students living on-campus are quarantined-in-place following potential COVID-19 exposure in the dorms, according to Cal Poly’s COVID-19 dashboard as of Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 29.

Residents of floors or sections of buildings under quarantine-in-place must remain in their rooms for the majority of the day, according to the university’s student quarantine and isolation guide.

University Housing residents are quarantined-in-place if the San Luis Obispo County Department of Public Health and the university suspect possible coronavirus exposure within the facilities, according to the dashboard.

University Housing includes Sierra Madre and Yosemite, yakʔityutyu, South Mountain and North Mountain residence halls. University Housing also includes Cerro Vista apartments, Poly Canyon Village apartments, Cal Poly Lofts and agriculture housing. 

An additional 12 students living on-campus are in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 and 15 students are quarantined after being exposed to a person with the virus, according to the dashboard updated Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 29.

The university did not confirm which floors or sections of buildings are used for isolation, quarantine or quarantine-in-place due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), University Spokesperson Matt Lazier said. 

Residents of the first floor of tsɨtqawɨ are quarantined-in-place

Animal science freshman Isabella Mattioli is one of 135 students quarantined-in-place. She received an email on Sept. 11 that stated a resident on the first floor of tsɨtqawɨ was in quarantine due to COVID-19, she said. The 15 students on the first floor were instructed to attend a Zoom meeting later in the evening, Mattioli said. 

Quarantined students fill out a Google Form each day to choose how many meals they want the next day, Mattioli said. Students do not get to choose what meal they get, Mattioli added. 

Students quarantined-in-place must stay in their room with closed doors for as much of the day as possible, according to the university’s quarantine and isolation guide

Students with in-person classes must contact their professors to develop accommodations. Students are tested two times for COVID-19 by the university while quarantined in place, according to the guide.

The students quarantined in place on the first floor of tsɨtqawɨ were tested for COVID-19 on Sept. 14. Their tests all came back negative, except the original carrier’s, Mattioli said. The students were tested a second time on Sept. 21. 

Even after presenting a negative COVID-19 test, the students who were exposed to the virus had to continue to quarantine-in-place in case they developed symptoms later.

The university tested the students for COVID-19 in the kitchen of tsɨtqawɨ, according to Mattioli.

“[The testing] was super easy, they really worked with their schedule because we had classes at different times on Monday,” Mattioli said. 

Mattioli said the testing staff came for the entire day and a doctor explained everything to the students. The students self-administered the COVID-19 test, and they got results back in about five hours, Mattioli said. 

After the residents’ first negative test results, the students were allowed to go on walks alone and pick up their own food via GrubHub. The students’ yellow coronavirus self-screening pass grants access to these services, according to University Housing Marketing Coordinator Julia Bluff.

Quarantined students with a negative test result also may pick up mail or essential supplies, receive healthcare or take out their trash.

The students have access to the first floor kitchen, laundry room and bathroom. 

“Until further notice, this kitchen is only available to residents of the first floor,” a sign read on the door. The sign also read that the kitchen occupancy is one person. 

Students also did laundry in shifts, and they were sent an email to sign up for a time slot on Sept. 14. There were two shifts a day for two weeks. During the shifts, no other students in the building were allowed to use the room. The custodial staff cleaned the room after their shifts. 

Students quarantined-in-place may wear a face covering and leave their room to use the common bathroom, according to the guide.

The university put wipes in the bathroom, so students could sanitize everything themselves, Mattioli said. 

Since quarantine-in-place began, Mattioli said she has had more time to focus on schoolwork. 

“I knew that I would have more time to focus on classes, because I don’t have the pressures of going out with friends or being distracted,” Mattioli said. “I have literally 12 hours of my day just dedicated to doing whatever I need to do for class.” 

Mattioli said she is looking forward to venturing off campus once the 14 day quarantine-in-place is over. Mattioli has a car and she said she is looking forward to going grocery shopping or going to Home Depot to get supplies for her plants. 

Art and design freshman Elise Coatney and architecture freshman Isabella Borda live in the same building as Mattioli. 

Coatney said Cal Poly did not provide students outside the first floor information about the quarantine-in-place status. 

“They have not said anything,” Coatney said.

Borda said the other residents found out about the quarantine through word of mouth.

“[We] have not been told anything about the first floor quarantine,” Borda said. “We learned from friends.” 

University Housing residents quarantined in place may not have visitors and must self-monitor by temperature checks. 

Multiple students on the floor are using their whiteboards to say what day of quarantine that they are on.

Quarantine vs. isolation

Twelve University Housing residents are in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 and 15 students are quarantined after exposure to someone with coronavirus, according to the coronavirus dashboard updated Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 29. 

Following a positive COVID-19 test result, a student living on-campus is contacted by a Campus Health and Wellbeing representative with isolation instructions. A university support team member will also contact the student to plan their move to isolation. 

A San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department contact tracer will call the student, too. 

A student may be released from isolation ten days after they first developed symptoms if their symptoms have improved and if they have not had a fever in 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medication. University Housing residents exposed to COVID-19 must quarantine for 14 days. 

“Quarantine keeps someone who might have been exposed to the virus away from others, while isolation separates those who have COVID-19 from others,” University Housing Outreach and Communications Assistant Director Nona Matthews wrote in an email to Mustang News.

University Housing residents who test positive for COVID-19 are isolated in on-campus apartments, according to Matthews. Quarantined students may be moved to a different room or apartment, according to the quarantine and isolation guide.

Students living in the Cal Poly Lofts, a university housing community downtown, also have the option of moving to isolation on-campus after testing positive for COVID-19, according to Bluff. 

Students who live off-campus will isolate at home if they test positive for COVID-19. However, University Housing will work with students on a case-by-case basis if they do not feel safe isolating at home, according to Bluff. 

Students instructed to isolate or quarantine in a different room must pack their personal belongings for up to 14 days, according to the guide.

Personal items may include clothing, toiletries, identification cards, medications, personal care items, technology and school materials, the guide stated. 

Students with service animals or emotional support animals may bring their animal and its supplies, according to the guide.  

University Housing residents isolated or quarantined receive meal delivery, mail delivery and laundry services, according to Matthews.

Campus Dining provides contactless meal delivery to students three times a day. Breakfast is delivered between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., lunch is delivered between noon to 1 p.m. and dinner is delivered from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., according to Matthews.

Campus Dining serves culturally appropriate meals, like Kosher or Halal meals, and accommodates special dietary needs upon request, according to Bluff. 

Resident Advisors (RAs) may assist with meal delivery for quarantined students, according to Matthews. 

While students in isolation are provided with supplies and directions for cleaning, the students must coordinate medication delivery or an alternative pick-up through their pharmacy, according to Bluff.

There are now 164 isolation and quarantine beds open in the designated on-campus apartments, according to the dashboard.

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