Three days into fall quarter, Cal Poly officials notified students living in Muir Hall that a resident on the dorm’s third floor tested positive for the coronavirus, according to documents obtained by Mustang News.
Third floor residents were immediately put under quarantine in place, but they found out one week later, on Tuesday, Sept. 22 that another student on their floor also tested positive for coronavirus.
Quarantine in place is the lowest tier of precautionary measures taken by the university after a coronavirus case is recorded on campus. It allows for students to leave their rooms to get food and other essentials. Residents are also allowed to go out for runs and visit the campus bookstore.
University Spokesperson Matt Lazier did not confirm whether the third floor of Muir Hall is under quarantine in place, writing through email that “specifying smaller sections of residential communities directed to quarantine in place could, in essence, create a HIPAA violation.”
Student residents in Muir Hall were sent the first page of the document above document Wednesday, Sept. 16, after a student resident tested positive for the coronavirus. The second page of the above document was sent to student residents only on the third floor of Muir Hall, which notified them of a second coronavirus case on their floor.
This quarter, more than 4,000 students live in Cal Poly’s eight residential communities. Since Wednesday, July 8, 21 students have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Mustang News spoke with residents as well as RAs in the South Mountain dorms, which contain six buildings including Muir Hall. RAs asked that their names not be used since speaking with the media violates their contracts and they said they feared retaliation from the university.
RAs told Mustang News that officials do not have a way to enforce quarantine in place, and they said that some residents on Muir Hall’s third floor can be seen in groups of more than three people — sometimes without masks.
“For quarantine in place, there’s like basically no real enforcement and everyone knows that,” one RA said. “You can do whatever you want, basically.”
Third floor Muir Hall resident Brayden Martinez said that he does not usually see students disobey quarantine guidelines, but he said that university officials became relaxed with enforcing rules right after they informed his floor of its second coronavirus case.
University officials have been communicating with quarantined residents via Zoom, but Martinez said those sessions are not very informative. The tone that officials used in a recent meeting bothered him, Martinez said.
“They said we should be happy about being allowed to go outside and that really just rubbed me the wrong way,” Martinez said.
Cal Poly also does not share information about where outbreaks occur on campus, RAs said. Some RAs and students living on-campus said they feel “left in the dark” not knowing if another building in their residential community has a student who tested positive for coronavirus.
While all Muir Hall residents received notification of the first coronavirus case in their dorm, residents said that only third floor residents were notified of the second case. Residents located in the five other South Mountain buildings have not been notified of either coronavirus cases in their residential community.
Thomas Zimmerman, a student resident who lives on the second floor of Muir Hall, said he only found out about the second coronavirus case in his dorm after hearing rumors and talking with third floor residents. Zimmerman said all residents in the building should know of the positive coronavirus cases.
“I think they should open it up to the whole building, because it essentially involves the whole building. It’s not like we’re not seeing people from the third floor ever,” Zimmerman said. “We’re still going to be seeing them out and about everywhere, so we’re still partially exposed.”
Martinez, the student resident on the quarantined floor in Muir Hall, said that he still does not know what is going on and he passes on the “little information” he gets to residents on other floors.
“It’s definitely a game of telephone, especially when nobody even knows what the big picture is,” Martinez said.
South Mountain RAs said they had to go to Muir Hall’s third floor to do rounds, which involves checking on residents to ensure safety and wellbeing, but RAs said some of them did not know that floor was under quarantine in place.
For more than a week after the first coronavirus case in Muir Hall, RAs said they were not formally notified of the situation by officials, and they said they went through the third floor knocking on doors and checking on residents — business as usual.
“It’s frustrating when we get notified about things last minute and then they go, ‘Sorry you know all this COVID-stuff is last minute, like everyone’s trying to adjust,’ but it’s also like no, you had all summer to plan for this,” one RA said.
The combination of multiple coronavirus cases in dorms and not receiving timely information about coronavirus-related matters have made student residents living on campus feel stressed and let down, they said.
“It feels like they’re not giving us kind of what they promised, which was like information [and] a secure and safe campus to live on,” Martinez said. “Like, that’s kind of the whole reason why a lot of us are here moving into the dorms. We came here because we viewed it as a safe option, like, ‘Oh, we’re not going to come here and just immediately catch the coronavirus and have to be sent home.’”