BYU students confused with COVID isolation housing protocol

BYU has started using Heritage and Aspen Grove to isolate on-campus residents, and some students are confused about the isolation protocols. (Preston Crawley)

On-campus housing students in COVID-19 isolation housing have expressed confusion with the protocol and wish communication from BYU was clearer about what to bring and how to end the isolation period.

BYU students who test positive for COVID-19 and are unable to isolate in their on-campus dorms are relocated to designated isolation hallways in Heritage Halls or the Aspen Grove overflow. There is no university-wide protocol for students living off-campus.

Heritage Halls

Eleni Lopez, a Helaman Halls resident who isolated in Heritage Halls, said the experience was confusing and she wishes BYU would have been clearer so she could have been more prepared.

“I was just using body wash to wash my hands because there wasn’t any soap,” Lopez said. “I had even brought a roll of toilet paper because I just had no idea what to expect.”

Lopez said she would have brought more snacks if she had known what the meal plan would have looked like.

BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said students isolating in Heritage “will need to bring 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.” She also said “toilet paper, linen/towel set (as needed), hand soap, disinfecting cleaner and a router, as well as trash and biohazard waste disposal bags” will be provided. 

In regard to food, Jenkins said students who do not have meal plans can use Cougar Cash to purchase meals from Dining Services. They can also order groceries through the Creamery on Ninth, Walmart or Smith’s.

Aside from things she would have liked to pack, Lopez said she also wishes someone would have checked her in and out of isolation. “I felt like I could have just left at any time and no one would have known.”

The front cover of Utah’s COVID-19 guide download. Carri Jenkins asked students who were exposed or are waiting for test results to follow the guidelines listed.

“They kinda just leave you in the dark in leaving. We tried calling a few people but they never answered,” said Tanner Esplin, who ended isolation at Heritage Sept. 18.

Jenkins said state and local health officials provided “excellent instructions,” which are linked to BYU’s website, that students can read through to understand when they can end isolation or quarantine. However, she didn’t provide BYU-specific instructions.

When Esplin, who normally lives in Helaman Halls, received a call to tell him he would be moved to Heritage, he said the university provided a van. The trip back to Helaman, however, was different. “We just kinda had to find a friend with a car to come pick us up with our stuff.” 

Single Student Housing Manager Jay Brown clarified that students who are asked to relocate during quarantine or isolation have two options: they may transport themselves or request transportation provided in their housing area.

Aspen Grove

Communication from BYU seems to be more clear for students isolating at Aspen Grove because students were given a packing list, which Jenkins said is similar to what students should bring when isolating at Heritage. Students were also checked in upon arrival and were given the Aspen Grove manager’s number in case they needed anything. 

Aspen Grove is located 16 miles away from the university, and the campground is often used for family camps, youth conferences, holiday reservations and other recreational activities. Even though it sounds like an ideal place to isolate, Aspen Grove Director Craig Freeze said students relocated there follow the “university’s guidance” and are not allowed to leave their room. 

Aspen Grove is a BYU owned facility in Provo canyon where some students have been asked to isolate. (Hannah Miner)

Heritage Halls resident Tyler Bannon is one of three known students who was asked to isolate at Aspen Grove. 

“We actually tried to get some fresh air and we stood in the parking lot with our masks on and a worker told us we’re supposed to be back in our rooms,” said Bannon. “Which I get, I mean, we’re not trying to spread it but I thought we were pretty far away from everyone.”

Bannon learned he and would of his roommates would be isolating at Aspen Grove on Sept. 20. Bannon’s third roommate, however, was told he would be staying in one of the isolation rooms at Heritage.

“(My roommate and I) were a bit confused because we’re like, well why do we have to go to Aspen Grove,” Bannon said. “I was kind of like, alright, maybe they’re full or whatever.”

When Bannon spoke with his roommate isolating in Heritage, he learned that his roommate was isolating alone when typically three students can isolate per dorm. “There’s no one else. So there are two empty rooms, so we’re like, ‘Why can’t we be in there?’” Bannon said. 

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 to get to Aspen Grove Sunday, Sept. 20 with another male student. When the roommates finished isolation Sept. 24, they organized a ride with Bannon’s sisters back to campus.

Although the process has been more informative for Bannon, he still expressed confusion — like Esplin and Lopez — when his isolation was coming to an end.

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