New COVID isolation protocol boosts couch-surfing and hotel stays – The GW Hatchet
When sophomore Rachel Zhao’s roommate tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, she threw a few days’ worth of clothes and belongings into a bag and left her room for two in the district house, not knowing where she would go next.
For the next five days, she slept on spare mattresses in the guest rooms until GW released her roommate from solitary confinement.
“I just threw everything in a bag,” Zhao said.
Zhao’s week-long crash in campus rooms is a byproduct of the university’s isolation protocol updated in August, which no longer moves residential students who test positive to separate isolation accommodations. Five students said they paid hotels to self-isolate, slept on friends’ sofas and spare mattresses to avoid further exposure, or slept within feet of a sick roommate as a result of the new protocol.
The new university guidelines recommend students stay with family or friends, book a hotel room or stay in their room while keeping a distance from their infected roommate. Officials said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance no longer considers college residence halls ‘high-risk areas’ because the usual undergraduate age group is unlikely to experience severe cases. of COVID if they are vaccinated.
The CDC guidelines officials referred to also ask people who test positive for COVID to isolate themselves from others and not go to places where they cannot wear a mask.
Zhao said she stayed with two different friends at District House while she waited for her roommate to complete her period of isolation. She said she was forced to improvise her living situation after testing positive because she and her roommate hadn’t made a plan for what to do if either of them caught COVID.
She said she tried to minimize trips to her bedroom to retrieve items to avoid catching the virus in the small studio. She said she forgot shampoo and other essential toiletries in her rush to leave, so she borrowed them from friends instead of returning to her room.
“I feel like you don’t really want to go back to a room that someone who has COVID lives in,” she said.
Zhao said officials should provide optional isolation accommodation for students who test positive, especially those who cannot stay with friends. She said she understands hotels may be out of budget for GW, but students should have a choice to protect their health.
“I don’t think everyone would choose the option,” Zhao said. “Even if I had been given the option, I think I would have chosen to stay with my friends simply because it is more convenient for me.”
Officials implemented isolation housing in the 2021-22 academic year to isolate COVID-positive students from their roommates in an effort to contain the spread of COVID on campus.
The University Reserve beds last spring at Yours Truly — a local hotel north of Washington Circle — for students in isolation with COVID. Students who tested positive in the 2020-21 academic year isolated in residence halls, rooms left vacant due to the limited number of accommodations on campus.
COVID cases in DC last spring with around 307.9 weekly positive tests reported in early May, but those totals have since dropped to around 85 weekly cases in the district currently. Officials have accordingly relaxed COVID policies and restrictions on campus, lifting the mask mandate outside of educational institutions, transportation and healthcare facilities last week, ending the requirement for asymptomatic testing all every two weeks in June and shortening the isolation period for infected students from 10 days to five in May. .
University spokesman Josh Grossman declined to comment on the current status of GW’s isolation protocol, deferring to GW’s websites with guidance for residents who test positive for COVID. GW requires students to undergo at least five days of isolation as a measure to “separate” COVID-positive people from others, but the University does not offer separate accommodation.
The Campus Living and Residential Education website says sick people should “limit” interactions and “sleep as far apart as possible” with beds spaced apart.
At least six of GW’s 12 peer schools are asking students who test positive for COVID to self-isolate on site, while the University of Miami and the University of Southern California are requiring anyone who tests positive to move into separate isolation accommodation. Wake Forest University is asking students who test positive to isolate on-site, but is allowing students at risk of serious illness from COVID to move into separate accommodation if their roommate tests positive.
Maryana Shnitser, a sophomore living in a studio apartment in Guthridge Hall, said she stayed in three different guest rooms for five nights while her roommate had COVID to avoid additional exposure in their bedroom, kitchen and shared bathroom. She said she had no family nearby and the cost of a hotel room would have been a financial burden.
“A lot of people offered their space as soon as I told them, which was really nice,” she said. “And I’m grateful to have these people, but I know that’s not an option for everyone.”
Shnitser said she took “minimal” belongings to her room at Guthridge Hall for two people and that moving from room to room each night was “uncomfortable”. She said she didn’t want to disturb the friends who were hosting her, so she would try to find a new room after a few nights.
“I didn’t choose to stay with one person too long, so I didn’t impose their space,” Shnitser said. “So I tried to limit it.”
Shnitser said officials should implement an isolation housing option for students who test positive because it’s not realistic to put students in a living situation where they might have to live with a roommate. infected with COVID-19.
“It didn’t feel right to me or anyone else, if they were in that position, to have to stay in a room where they would get sick, basically, with something that affects everyone differently,” Shnitser said.
Ava DelloRusso, a sophomore living in Shenkman Hall, said when she tested positive last week, she and her roommates decided she would stay in the room while her roommate used the adjoining common room. She said her roommate slept on the sofa the first few nights before deciding to share the room with her at night even though DelloRusso had not completed his period of isolation.
“I don’t have any family that lives near here, so it’s not like I can pack my bags and go home anywhere,” DelloRusso said. “So it was really like, what can I do? What can we do to make it as safe as possible while I stay in the room?”
DelloRusso said she wore a mask at all times other than sleeping, sanitized shared surfaces, and began sleeping upside down on the bed with her head further away from her roommate. She said none of her housemates had tested positive since the new arrangement, but the closeness of her housemates during her period of isolation has been a source of anxiety.
“It’s the pros and cons, where it’s nice that I didn’t have to completely uproot everything and go and move somewhere,” DelloRusso said. “But at the same time, it brought a new level of stress of constantly being concerned, like, ‘Oh my God, am I going to make somebody else sick?'”
Shea Carlberg contributed reporting.