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’Eerily silent’: An experience from University of Virginia’s quarantined dorm

Balz-Dobie dorm at the University of Virginia
Balz-Dobie dorm at the University of Virginia(WHSV)
Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 11:26 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - University of Virginia students are coping under quarantine as additional positive COVID-19 cases are reported at a residence hall. Thursday night, students learned the number has risen to 15 total confirmed cases, as nine more students received positive results as part of point-prevalence testing.

Almost 200 students are waiting for their COVID test results while remaining in quarantine at Balz-Dobie dorm. No one, including NBC29 reporters, was allowed inside, but one student shared her experience.

“It’s even lonelier than before,” said first-year student Eirian Crocker. “But we keep up pretty decent spirits. We really figured out how to communicate online, like group chats and zoom.”

Crocker spoke with NBC29 on Zoom after she finished her online class. Many UVA students are in their second week of in-person learning, but Crocker was once again behind a video camera.

“Nearly all of the Rodman scholars are in Balz-Dobie, and professor actually canceled class today,” she said.

She first learned of the outbreak through other residents of the dorm.

“When they got positive tests back, they immediately messaged the group chat,” she said.

Once she learned about the outbreak, she started a voluntary quarantine. She was not alone.

“Everyone [was] being so responsible and self-quarantining, and then everyone who wasn’t self-quarantining was incredibly supportive - like, offering to go get food,” she said. “It was kind of incredible.”

Now students can only leave their rooms to go to the bathroom or pick up meals at specific times at a university set-up tent.

“The hallways are kind of eerily silent,” she said. “If you hear a door open and close, that’s also a rare sound now.”

Crocker says moving to college in 2020 may have made this experience feel a little less unusual.

“The entirely new experience of moving to college, actually almost made it less strange, because we were already doing something new.”

On average, university tests take 29 hours to be completed. That could mean Balz-Dobie residents could find out their results by Friday morning.

Contact tracing is expected to begin Friday morning.

Letter to those living at Balz-Dobie Residence Hall:

Dear Residents of Balz-Dobie:

We have received the results for the COVID-19 testing conducted at Balz-Dobie on Wednesday. We are writing to report that there were 9 additional positive cases in the Balz-Dobie community, bringing the total to 15 cases. The students with positive test results will be moving to isolation housing, and their close contacts, including their roommates, will be moving to quarantine housing. These individuals will be receiving telephone calls from Student Health and Wellness and the Dean on Call before midnight tonight. Individual test results are not viewable yet but will be available in MyChart soon. In the meantime, if you do not receive a call this evening before midnight, you can assume that your test result was negative.

We are requesting that all residents stay in place at Balz-Dobie until tomorrow so that we can consult with the Virginia Department of Health for further guidance. We will write to you again by midday tomorrow with additional information and instructions. Breakfast tomorrow will be available again at the tent, as it was this morning.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will begin contact tracing tomorrow. VDH will contact you if they believe that you are a close contact or may have been exposed to the virus. If you are contacted by VDH, please cooperate fully. Contact tracing is one of the best tools we have to identify and contain the virus. No student will be subject to disciplinary action for positive test results or for any information that is disclosed during contact tracing.

Additional information and guidance about what to do when someone around you has tested positive, including a number to call if you are experiencing symptoms or may be a close contact of an infected individual, is available here.

We recognize that having positive cases in Balz-Dobie, and the pandemic more generally, is likely to create some anxiety. Resources are available here.

We would like to thank you for your cooperation and your patience throughout this process. We will be in touch again tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Liz Magill

Provost

J.J. Davis

Chief Operating Officer

Mitch Rosner, MD, MACP

Henry B. Mulholland Professor of Medicine

Chair, Department of Medicine

Chief Medical Advisor, UVA COVID-19 Response

Amy Mathers, MD, D(ABMM)

Associate Professor of Medicine and Pathology

Copyright 2020 WVIR. All rights reserved

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