Following a spike in COVID-19 cases in University Housing, Cal Poly began isolating students with the coronavirus off-campus late last week, according to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier.
Cal Poly moved 20 students to isolate off-campus last week, but Lazier said that the university cannot confirm where students are isolating due to “privacy concerns.”
Some Cal Poly students with COVID-19 are isolating at the Lamplighter Inn and Suites on Monterey Street in downtown San Luis Obispo, according to the inn’s general manager Sunil Patel.
However, on Cal Poly’s COVID-19 dashboard — which is updated daily by the university with COVID-19 data, such as how many students are in isolation, quarantine and quarantine-in-place — the number of isolation beds available did not change, even though more students went into isolation.
Lazier had no explanation for why the university didn’t update the number of isolation beds.
Biological sciences professor Candace Winstead said she would be upset if the university purposefully did not update the number of remaining isolation beds. She said it’s important for the university to be transparent with how COVID-19 has impacted the community.
“Part of why transparency is important is because you need to have trust,” Winstead said.
Because there were no available isolation beds on campus, the university relocated one student to isolate at the Lamplighter Inn and Suites on Sunday, Nov. 8. This student has since moved back to her apartment on campus, where she will complete her isolation.
Another student with COVID-19 moved to the inn on Monday, Nov. 9. While the student said she is comfortable, she did not know that isolating off-campus was a possibility.
An increase in COVID-19 cases on campus
Last week, 38 students living on campus tested positive for COVID-19. University officials called this increase in COVID-19 cases a “significant jump,” according to a campus-wide email sent Thursday, Nov. 5.
Cal Poly reported that the increase in cases was due to sorority chapters and University Housing residents in Poly Canyon Village hosting gatherings that did not follow health and safety guidelines, according to the email. The university discovered these groups’ activities via contact tracing.
Students not following isolation and quarantine orders, and students “interacting with other students known to be positive for COVID-19 without wearing masks,” added to this spike, President Jeffrey Armstrong and Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Humphrey wrote in the email.
The heightened number of COVID-19 cases on campus required more University Housing residents to quarantine over the weekend, according to Lazier.
“This increased pressure on on-campus isolation capacity led to the need for overflow space off campus,” Lazier wrote in an email to Mustang News.
The university is charged per night for the rooms in the off-campus location, but does not have a total amount for how much money has been spent, according to Lazier.
The practice of isolating people with COVID-19 in hotel rooms is common in California, according to San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department Spokesperson Michelle Shoresman.
Cal Poly’s coronavirus dashboard discrepancy
No new students living on campus were quarantined on Friday according to Cal Poly’s coronavirus dashboard, although COVID-19 cases on campus had increased. Cal Poly listed 103 available isolation and quarantine beds on the dashboard through Wednesday, Nov. 11. The dashboard did not update on Wednesday, Nov. 11 due to Veterans Day.
Biological sciences professor Candace Winstead said it was unclear why the dashboard did not change for an extended period of time.
“I was really confused to see the isolation case numbers going up, but that bed numbers stayed the same,” Winstead said.
The university did not explain this discrepancy.
“I don’t have any additional details on those numbers,” Lazier wrote in an email to Mustang News on Friday, Nov. 6.
The student experience at Lamplighter Inn and Suites
Microbiology freshman Quinn Casey is isolated in a room at the Lamplighter Inn and Suites.
Casey took a COVID-19 test at Campus Health and Wellbeing on Friday, Nov. 7, and a second test through the Ongoing Testing Program on Monday, Nov. 9. She received a phone call from Campus Health and Wellbeing around 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 9 notifying her of a positive COVID-19 test result.
Casey said University Housing called her around 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 9 to explain the moving process to an off-campus location. Casey received an email with recommended items to pack, she packed her belongings and a car drove her to the Lamplighter Inn and Suites around 6:00 p.m.
Casey did not know that isolating at a location off campus was a possibility.
“I had no idea,” Casey said.
Cal Poly uses Amdal Transport Services, a company that specializes in medical transport, to drive students to the off-campus location, according to Lazier.
Upon arrival at the Lamplighter Inn and Suites, Casey said she checked in outside the lobby, where a table and screen divider was set up. She signed forms, received a room number and walked across the street to her room.
Students isolating off-campus are offered laundry services and provided three meals a day by Campus Dining, according to Lazier. The meals are dropped off between noon and 1 p.m. each day, lunch and dinner for that day, and breakfast for the next. Students may notify Campus Dining of any food allergies or dietary restrictions.
Casey said the meals are similar to what she would eat on campus. One day, Casey was delivered a wrap for lunch; a noodle dish for dinner; a yogurt, muffin, apple and orange juice for the next morning’s breakfast and a granola bar and pretzels for snacks.
Throughout her COVID-19 stay at the Lamplighter Inn and Suites, Casey said she has experienced miscommunication with County Public Health and confusion with Campus Health and Wellbeing.
Before Casey moved to the inn, Campus Health and Wellbeing told her to anticipate phone calls from University Housing, Campus Dining and the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department. Casey did not receive a call from County Public Health until Friday morning, Nov. 13, after leaving two voicemails since Monday, Nov. 9.
The university was also confused about Casey’s isolation status. Casey took two separate COVID-19 tests, one through Campus Health and Wellbeing and one through the Ongoing Testing Program, and the university did not correlate the two as one person’s results.
While already isolated at the inn, Casey said she received a phone call with directions to move into a Cerro Vista isolation apartment with a COVID-positive roommate.
A University Honors Program student, Casey lives in nipumuʔ — a three-story residence hall in yakʔitʸutʸu. Her floor was notified that their quarantine-in-place would be extended, as the university believed a second person tested positive on the floor. However, this new positive person was Casey’s second COVID-19 test.
She also received a phone call from the Amdal Transport Services driver who took her to the inn. The driver said he would pick her up in 15 minutes, according to Casey.
“I had to tell him ‘No! You drove me to the hotel two days ago,’” Casey said. “So that communication was a little off.”
Casey is now on her fifth day of isolation and has a headache and congestion. She also lost her senses of taste and smell on Wednesday, Nov. 11.
Casey’s 19th birthday is one week away — Thursday, Nov. 19 — potentially her eleventh day of isolation, and she said she hopes to be released by then.
People with COVID-19 may be released from isolation ten days after they first had symptoms — if the symptoms have improved and they have not had a fever in 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medication, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Casey said if she could say one thing to her neighbors at the Lamplighter Inn and Suites, she would apologize for “recording my speech like 10,000 times!”
“These walls are paper thin, and you can hear everything,” Casey said.
Once Casey is released from isolation, she will return to campus before heading home to Washington for the holiday season. Casey said while she misses her floormates, she enjoys the two king size beds at the inn.
“This is a good, good experience, the best one that probably could have come out of COVID quarantine in college,” Casey said. “It hasn’t been too bad — thanks Lamplighter.”
An isolated student’s return to campus
Public health freshman Kailin Morris was isolated in a room at the Lamplighter Inn and Suites from Sunday evening, Nov. 8 to Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 11.
Morris took a COVID-19 test through the Ongoing Testing program on Saturday, Nov. 7 and was notified of her positive result by Campus Health and Wellbeing on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 8.
Campus Health and Wellbeing informed Morris that she — and 12 other University Housing residents who also tested positive for the virus — would isolate at an off-campus location, as there were no more available isolation beds on campus. Morris said she was not initially told the location where she would isolate.
“[Campus Health and Wellbeing] said they would just call us later,” Morris said. “They were just out of space.”
Morris received a phone call at around 5 p.m. that evening, and was told that she would isolate at the Lamplighter Inn and Suites.
“I was really confused at first, because I didn’t know that was even an option,” Morris said. “It ended up working out perfectly fine and was super smooth.”
One of Morris’ three roommates from her Bishop apartment in Cerro Vista also tested positive for the virus. This roommate was isolated in a different room at the inn.
Morris’ two other roommates, who did not test positive for COVID-19, moved out of the apartment and went home.
University Housing informed Morris and her roommate of their roommates’ departure, and said they could return to campus to complete their isolation.
“Housing told me and my roommate that did test positive [that] we could come back to our apartment and isolate here if we wanted to,” Morris said. “And so we chose to do that.”
Morris is now on her sixth day of quarantine and has only one COVID-19 symptom — a headache.