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Here's what you need to know about UNC's isolation and quarantine dorms

A Carolina Housing Residence Hall on Saturday, May 16, 2020 after nearly all of the residents had moved out due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include information about dining services for residential students in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19.

Carolina Housing plans to use Craige North and Parker residence halls to house students who need to be in isolation or in quarantine due to COVID-19 in the fall. 

Craige North will be used for residential students identified as having been in contact with positive cases, but are unconfirmed for COVID-19. Residential students who test positive for COVID-19 will isolate in Parker. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, isolation refers to the separation of people with a contagious disease — such as COVID-19 — from those who are not sick, whereas quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people exposed to the disease to see if they become sick. 

Ken Pittman, executive director for Campus Health, said in a statement via UNC Media Relations that students who have been identified as a close contact of a COVID-positive individual will be given a time frame of quarantine based on when they were in contact with the infected individual. He said students will be provided time frames on a case-by-case basis, but that quarantine could last up to 14 days after exposure.

"A negative test would not necessarily end the student’s quarantine period because the result would only reflect status on the day the test was performed, and the incubation period is generally 2-14 days," Pittman said. "Students who test positive while in quarantine in Craige North will be expected to move to Parker."  

Pittman said that, per CDC guidelines, students who are in quarantine in Craige North will have a single bedroom and single bathroom space configuration. 

Carolina Housing’s website states that individuals who test positive for COVID-19 may be expected to share a room, and residents will share a restroom, as they would have in their original dorm hall.

“According to infectious disease and public health experts, those who have tested positive for COVID-19 do not require the same separation restrictions as those who have not tested positive because they already have the virus,” the website states.

Pittman reiterated this guidance. 

“Individuals who have confirmed positive test results are able to share space with other individuals who have tested positive without placing them at additional risk,” Pittman said. 

He also said students in isolation in Parker are advised to stay in the residence hall, and the only reason they should leave assigned spaces should be to access medical care. Students in quarantine in Craige North are to wear masks and maintain physical distance if they leave their assigned spaces, and should not go outside unless they can guarantee interaction with others does not occur.

Pittman said that students who are in isolation will receive daily medical monitors from a nurse. He said students in quarantine will receive daily automated symptom monitoring communications, which trigger contact from a nurse if symptoms are reported.

Myron Cohen, director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, said in an email statement that, currently, maximal isolation would last 14 days after the onset of symptoms, and that policies are evolving and it could become shorter as knowledge continues to progress. 

Ann Goulian, an incoming student who is planning to live in Craige Residence Hall, said she is concerned about the number of people who may be exposed to the virus. 

“I feel like once one person has it, the amount of people they would have been around is too many,” Goulian said. “We’re all just living in close quarters, and so I feel like a breakout is inevitable and just having one isolation dorm isn’t really a feasible solution, even if it’s the obvious option.” 

Joey Marmaud, another incoming first-year living in Ehringhaus Residence Hall, said he thinks there is a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 for on-campus students.

“I feel like if you’re going to live on campus, you’re kind of saying you’re willing to take the risk of contracting it because I feel like it's more likely than not," he said.

Marmaud echoed Goulian’s statement about the potential for an outbreak on campus.

“If a really large outbreak occurs, which I think is inevitable, I think it might come to a situation where you have too many cases and not enough resources for those,” Marmaud said.

When asked for an estimate on how long it would take the isolation and quarantine halls to fill up, Cohen said he hopes that the dorms do not require extensive use.

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“If students use masks and hand washing and distance, that will greatly limit exposure and spread of COVID-19 and the need for isolation and quarantine,” Cohen said. “The prevention of the spread of COVID-19 at UNC is doable, if we can all do it together.” 

Carolina Housing Executive Director Allan Blattner also said UNC is "continuing to explore contingency options should this occur,” in response to whether the University had a plan if the residence halls reach capacity.

Blattner said in an email via UNC Media Relations that all areas of the two buildings will be cleaned based on CDC guidelines. He said an outside contractor will clean rooms in Craige North and Parker where an individual has tested positive, and University Housekeeping staff will clean communal spaces and areas where the resident tested negative. 

Currently, Craige North and Parker are going to be prioritized for residential students, Blattner said.

“Campus Health will work with Carolina Housing, Dining Services and the Office of the Dean of Students if a student requires isolation space, academic accommodations and/or support services during a period of isolation,” Blattner said. “It is anticipated that most students living in off-campus locations will have the flexibility to isolate and/or quarantine in their existing living space. On-campus accommodations will be secured for students when other options are not available.”

Blattner also said that students in the dorms will receive one meal delivery per day from Carolina Dining Service catering that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. He said to ensure meals meet a student’s dining preferences or allergy restrictions, students will be asked some dietary information. 

UNC Media Relations stated in an email that students in isolation or quarantine in the two residence halls will receive food with no charge, regardless of their meal plan status.