As NAU Housing & Residence Life continues the extended move-in process until the end of August, there will be several adjustments to how these facilities function. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, one notable change was NAU’s decision to create quarantine rooms for residents who experience symptoms or test positive.
These students are obligated to self-quarantine during the period of their illness, or until their test results return as negative, NAU spokesperson Kimberly Ott said.
“Select halls were identified as appropriate for quarantine and isolation space based on privacy and access to interior bathrooms,” Ott said. “If our rooms fill, we have alternate arrangements with other facilities that have availability and meet the privacy and access requirements. By keeping students who may have been exposed apart from other students, we can help reduce the spread of this virus.”
In addition, these measures will allow the university to mitigate risks around the NAU community and manage the spread of COVID-19 while still offering select in-person components, Ott said.
In a “Forecast from Flagstaff” video on NAU’s YouTube channel, Housing & Residence Life director Carolyn Burrell shared the protocols for when a student is infected.
“When a student tests positive, Campus Health Services or the student will report their positive test result straight to Housing and Residence Life, and the student will be offered a temporary space in a hall with their own bathroom,” Burrell said in the video. “We feel this will allow the student to feel comfortable and safe during this difficult time.”
Moreover, Burrell said Housing & Residence Life partnered with Campus Dining and Starship Delivery to provide food delivery services directly to residents in self-isolation spaces. By using this system, students can access food safely without compromising their designated quarantines.
Another demand brought on by the pandemic was de-densifying residential units, and according to an update from July 17, many housing assignments were changed in order to support a safe and healthy environment for students.
“Part of our planning involves reducing density in residence halls and holding some apartments and suites open,” the email distributed to students read. “As a result, some student assignments will be impacted and need to be changed to accommodate these measures.”
Junior Jady Kralovic said she was affected by these new directives from Housing & Residence Life. Kralovic was originally assigned to Gillenwater Hall, but her on-campus residence was changed to South Village Apartments roughly a month before move-in was scheduled.
“I understand that the university is trying to keep everyone safe, especially as cases continue to rise throughout the United States, but the university is requiring me to pay an extra $300 in rent for the academic year, due to South Village being more expensive,” Kralovic said. “Personally, I wouldn’t have minded being reassigned if the university did not require me to pay the difference.”
Despite NAU’s efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus — specifically through a multi-pronged testing approach and frequent health checks — one change.org petition already referenced infections within the housing staff. More specifically, sophomore Tyler Best claimed that 35 resident assistants (RA) and two residence hall directors (RHD) were isolated due to potential exposure as of Aug. 2. There have been no further reports regarding this.
Ott could not provide the exact number of RAs nor RHDs in the process of self-quarantining, but she did confirm that one RA tested positive.
“A number of weeks ago, one RA was notified by their provider that their test came back positive,” Ott said. “Mask-wearing and physical distancing protocols were followed by this individual as well as other RAs prior to the notification, and NAU took the added precaution of quarantining additional RAs.”
Regardless of quarantine rooms and their effectiveness, Ott said the university saw no additional cases traced back to the one RA.
“Our protocols are working and are indeed protecting our community,” Ott said. “The quarantine of the single RA who tested positive was actually an exceptional example of how well our protocols work.”
Academic communities around the country continue to raise questions — just recently, the University of North Carolina was forced to shift to remote instruction due to four COVID-19 clusters appearing during the first week of class, while the University of Alabama system reported 566 total cumulative cases since Aug. 19. With in-person classes beginning at NAU, ASU and UA before the end of August, the impact of higher education moving to face-to-face instruction could soon be clear.