WKU has been providing students with on-campus quarantine spaces for eight weeks, presenting unexpected challenges for both administration and students.
WKU announced in May that it was looking at methods to ensure in-person instruction for the Fall semester, outlined in the Big Red Restart Plan.
One aspect of this plan included the creation of “designated on-campus isolation areas” for housing residents needing to quarantine. Barnes Campbell Hall was one location chosen to fulfill this requirement.
Why was Barnes Campbell chosen as a quarantine area?
Barnes was originally scheduled to be demolished this summer, alongside its previous neighbor Bemis Lawrence Hall last fall, following the construction of Hilltopper Hall.
Administration delayed Barnes’ demolition after anticipating the need for additional housing to accommodate quarantined students, said Bob Skipper, director of media relations.
Before the fall semester, students were quarantined at the International Village and a wing of Bates Runner Hall, with overflow housing in Barnes. Some students were also allowed to remain in their respective residence halls if they had the same diagnosis as their roommate, assuming they had a private bathroom.
Mike Reagle, executive director for housing and dining, said issues arose when the university struggled to keep up with the distribution of food to several locations across campus.
“Our staff was taking the golf carts over to DSU and getting food three times a day for all these students,” Reagle said. “We were making about five stops in a golf cart and delivering all these meals up to a student's room, leaving it on the floor outside their door, knocking on the door and saying ‘hey dinner's here’, and then moving on to the next one.”
The Herald spoke to seven students who quarantined in Barnes between Sept. 9 and today, some of whom reported issues during their stay.
Reagle said some students received meals that were cold or delivered late.
Later, in order to cut down on logistical issues, Barnes became the only location for students to quarantine, Reagle said.
“We said let's just go ahead and shut up these facilities over here," Reagle said. “Let's put it all in one place because we can provide better service if we do so.”
Who is being sent to Barnes Campbell? Are students required to quarantine there?
Per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, any student who has been in contact with someone who has tested positive is required to quarantine for 14 days after exposure, even if they test negative or are asymptomatic.
Students are allowed to return home if they choose not to stay in Barnes. However, Reagle says the quarantine space is an opportunity to further contain the spread of COVID-19.
“We recognize that there's a lot of students who test positive that don't want to go home for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is it's highly contagious, and they don't want to pass on to the family,” Reagle said.
How is further spread of COVID-19 prevented within Barnes Campell?
According to Sharon Hunter, assistant director of data analysis and research for Housing and Residence Life, students are not allowed to travel between floors within Barnes and may not have visitors.
Reagle said a contracted company oversees the cleaning and disinfecting of Barnes. How frequently the building is sanitized depends on the number of residents.
"If you've only got a dozen people in the building, it doesn't need to be cleaned on a daily basis, or maybe even every other day, just simply because you're not dealing with the students,” Reagle said.
Reagle said the cleaning company pays specific attention to rooms, hallways, bathrooms and elevators due to the high traffic they receive from students.
What challenges have students faced in Barnes Campbell?
Students quarantining in Barnes have reported several issues in regards to the quality and location of the building.
Reagle said some students initially lacked hot water in the building. As maintenance worked with the system, students found that all water was hot.
“There's a reason that it's a building that's designated to be torn down here another six months,” Reagle said.
Reagle said at this time, the water issues should be fixed.
Students also reported noise pollution from the construction of the Freshman Village.
“We’ve got to continue to carry on with the construction projects that are there, and we try to do it being as user-friendly as we can since students are living in that building,” Reagle said.
Reagle said construction work is not permitted to start until 8 a.m. but acknowledged that other residence halls in the area have experienced similar complaints.
Are quarantined students provided with food and supplies?
An email survey is sent daily to students in Barnes for them to order their meals, which are provided three times a day.
Students are required to pay for meals through their dining plan, but have the option of opting out of deliveries.
Students who do not have a meal plan will need to contact the WKU ID center.
In addition, the WKU Restaurant Group provides students with a “welcome bag” containing chips, candy, granola bars, tissues and bottled water upon arrival.
Refrigerators containing water and additional snacks are available on several floors of the building.
Reagle said an area was set up in the building’s entrance to allow students to receive food deliveries and supplies.
“Students are able to get what they want but not have to go out and get it, which is what we were trying to eliminate during our early days of doing this,” Reagle said.
How are students notified that they need to quarantine at Barnes Campbell?
Following confirmed contact with a positive individual, a student will receive instructions on the quarantine process through an email from Housing and Residence Life, according to WKU’s quarantine plan.
The email explains the process through which they will receive meals and includes a packing list that includes clothing, food, electronics and other necessities.
Students will have the opportunity to apply for a temporary permit to park in the Barnes lot.
Michael J. Collins can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mjcollinsnews.