Roommates struggle with lack of COVID-19 guidance from UHS

Trenedy Parks, Staff Writer

The University of North Alabama’s COVID-19 guidelines for the 2022-2023 school year have not been posted to UNA’s official website. The lack of updated information proves to be an issue for the university students who have contracted the COVID-19 virus. 


According to last year’s Quarantine and Isolation Plan, students who have been isolated or quarantined must relocate from the university until given permission to return. To support the student, the university offers services such as telehealth visits, student counseling services, Housing and Residence Life Resident Advisor check-ins, and the university case manager is available to assist with additional resources and support. 


In the 2021-2022 plan, it outlines steps to follow in the event a student contracts the virus. It also has answers to frequently asked questions. Although the 2021-2022 plan is a reference to use in case of a COVID-19 diagnosis, it leaves many questions about isolation and quarantine unanswered.


How is a student who cannot return home, like an international student for example, supposed to quarantine or isolate without risking the health of their roomate(s)? 


Since the start of this year, there have already been reported cases of COVID-19 on campus. Neither Health Services nor the university have promoted or publicized any COVID-19 campus case counter for this year. Some of these students have had to isolate themselves inside of their rooms along with their non-infected roommates.


“[University Health Services] told me to quarantine for five days and wear a mask for five more days after that,”  said Alondra Vargas-Ramirez, a university resident. 


University Health Services neglected to give Vargas-Ramirez any information on how to cooperate with her roommate in this matter.


“[Health Services] said that [my roommate] had a right to the room,” Vargas-Ramirez said. “But if that was the case, and she wanted to stay in the room with me, I would have to wear a mask, and she would have to wear a mask.” said Vargas-Ramirez, “Which is really inconvenient.”  


Vargas-Ramirez and her roommate– Sydney Dent–- had discussed a plan in the case of a diagnosis, but without any official guidance from health services, working out a solution was difficult. 


“I was trying to contact Health Services and I was hitting dead-ends,” said Dent, “I would call and get ‘Hey this person’s going to call you back’ and I never got a call back.” 


Without support from University Health Services, Dent chose to stay with a friend for the duration of Vargas-Ramirez’s isolation period. 


“[University Health Services] said they didn’t have any other housing or any rooms they could put me in,” Dent said. “And the best option I would have would be to stay in my friend’s room.”


The lack of updated COVID guidance procedures puts student residents at risk for more situations like these.


Sheena Burgreen, the University’s Executive Director of Health and Well-Being declined to interview but sent the following statement over email, “University Health Services remains in contact with healthcare officials and is following guidance received from Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” 


The ADPH website’s guidelines for isolation and quarantining lists to “stay at home and away from others.” Yet, University Health Services (UHS) has no protocol listed for isolation and quarantine. 


Currently, the university has only the 2021-2022 guidelines posted onto the UNA website. The 2021-2022 guidelines and protocols are not consistent with the information that Health Services is providing students in current situations.


In the COVID-19 addendum of the 2021-2022 housing contract, any campus resident must comply with the university’s requests that a student leave their assigned living space if they pose a health or safety risk to other residents. Though, the residential student would not lose their housing contract. The contract has no information about where the displaced student would reside for the duration of their isolation


Even though UNA remains in accordance with Alabama Department of Public Health Guidelines, the university is unable to accommodate the need for isolation space during the continuing pandemic. 


According to the ADPH guidelines, “those who are infected [with COVID-19] should stay in isolation for at least five days. They can end isolation on day six if they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without medication and their symptoms are improving.”  


If these conditions are not met, ADPH advises to continue to isolate until day ten. It is suggested to mask until day ten after exposure, not to come into contact with high-risk individuals until day 11, and, if asymptomatic, not to test unless known exposure occurred and they are in a high-risk setting.