BYU using overflow for COVID isolation housing

Aspen Grove is located up Provo Canyon and owned by BYU. Some students who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been sent here to isolate. (Hannah Miner)

On-campus housing isolation is reaching capacity, and BYU has started sending students to overflow isolation at Aspen Grove.

The university started using the overflow housing the same time total COVID-19 cases at BYU broke the 1,000 mark. In preparation for fall semester, BYU Residence Life collaborated with university administrators and BYU Risk Management and Safety Office to plan a COVID-19 on-campus isolation housing protocol — including a place for overflow.

Part of isolation protocol includes moving Helaman Halls residents with COVID-19 into designated isolation hallways at Heritage Halls. The overflow plan includes using Aspen Grove — a BYU auxiliary organization near Sundance with 50 cabins, a kitchen, dining hall, restrooms and other recreational facilities.

“We’ve only had three students that have been sent to Aspen Grove because campus was full, and all three of those students have already left,” said Aspen Grove Director Craig Freeze. “The university has been able to handle almost all of the cases on campus.”

Aspen Grove has 12 full-time year round employees who Freeze said is “that group that’s coordinating all the behind the scenes intake” for Aspen Grove isolation housing including food preparation, delivery, custodial and sanitization.

There are three open positions for Aspen Grove under “Staff and Administrative Jobs” in BYU Y-Jobs: receptionist, custodial worker, and food service.

“Unless things change, these numbers are showing that we may get more students that are being asked to isolate here,” said Freeze. “We’re looking for anyone that’s willing to help in dining services or food services as well as custodial.”

When a student tests positive for COVID-19, risk management coordinates with housing, who then decides if the student needs to be sent to overflow housing. If this is the case, Freeze said Aspen Grove sends that student an email with instructions.

Freshman Tyler Bannon, a Heritage Halls resident, was one of the three students asked to isolate at Aspen Grove. He tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday, Sept. 17 but did not know he would be moved to Aspen Grove until Sunday, Sept. 20.

“They just asked me what building I was in, and they said be ready at the curb,” said Bannon. BYU Spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said students without a car will have transportation provided for them by an official with Residence Life to get to Aspen Grove. Bannon and his roommate used this transportation Sunday, Sept. 20 with another male student.

The three students were asked to sit at the back of a white van away from the driver wearing a mask, who Bannon said he thinks was an RA. Bannon also said the staff kept their distance and gave them instructions on where to go once they arrived to Aspen Grove. 

One of the instructions students are given when isolating at Aspen Grove includes downloading a few different apps that grants them “full, person-less, touch-less” access to Aspen Grove resources: maps, directions, digital room keys, and more.

Students are also given a packing list, which Jenkins said is similar to the items students should bring when isolating at Heritage Halls. Those items include personal hygiene items, cloth face covering, thermometer, under-garments and clothing for two weeks, hand sanitizer, school supplies, cell phone/computer and any desired food supplies. 

Unlike students isolating at Heritage Halls, Freeze said students isolating at Aspen Grove receive “via ongoing text communications” to ensure students are okay.

“The manager of Aspen Grove [was] very, very proactive about making sure and saying, ‘hey, if you guys need anything, just reach out to us, we can help you out,’ ” said Bannon.

“If students start to learn that they can isolate at Aspen Grove versus on campus we might start being the place they want to go because it’s so beautiful,” said Freeze. “We just are here to help the university in any way we can.”

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