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The University of Arkansas transitioned Holcombe Hall into housing for students that tested positive for COVID-19.

Instead of meal-trading at the Arkansas Union or pulling all-nighters in Mullins, students quarantined on-campus are experiencing constant isolation and cold dining hall food.

Eanthe Pieterse, a freshman quarantined in Holcombe Sept. 4-8, said she was more frustrated than scared about testing positive for the virus considering she felt she had taken all the necessary precautions.

The total active cases averaged 764 at the beginning of her quarantine, according to the University of Arkansas COVID-19 Dashboard. Pieterse said that she didn’t feel like the university was prepared to handle the amount of quarantined students.

“I understood all the protocols put in place beforehand,” Pieterse said. “But when it came down to actually quarantining in the Holcombe dorm, I felt neglected on so many levels.”

The Holcombe dorm is specifically reserved to isolate students that test positive for COVID-19, said Billy Blount, the director of administrative services for university housing, in an email.

There are no students who have a permanent assignment in Holcombe this year, he said.

Students check in and out of quarantine at the university housing office. Blount said the process is completely contactless and that the wearing of face coverings is essential to mitigating the spread of the virus.

“Staff working these check-ins and outs are provided with masks, gloves, sanitizing spray, disinfecting wipes and spray and a plexiglass shield between the student and staff member,” Blount said. “The area around the check in/out station is also marked with floor markings that measure appropriate six-foot social distance measures.”

Regarding the delivery of meals for quarantined students, Pieterse said she received her food outside her door after texting an RA or faculty member her order. Unable to physically select the meals herself, her order often came to her door cold and incomplete, she said.

Restricted from leaving her building, taking out her own trash or doing her own laundry, Pieterse and her assigned roommate kept their leftover trash inside their dorm until trash day, Monday and Thursday, while leaving their laundry outside the door for cleaning. Pieterse said she disliked having all these restrictions and felt very blessed when her quarantine was finally lifted.

Isolated students are assigned a nurse to contact about their symptoms and must be released by the Arkansas Health Department.

McKenzie Gomez, a freshman who quarantined in Holcombe for ten days, said that the Arkansas Department of Health did not communicate well with the university at all and it took awhile for her to get her release letter.

Pieterse said she knew several girls that could not get in contact with their nurse or the department for days because the phone lines were so busy.

Jordan Johnson, a junior, quarantined in Margaret Clark Hall for 14 days. Quarantined Sept. 11-25, Johnson said he thought the university was as prepared as they could have been in handling the number of students moved into isolation.

“Quarantining was kind of tough at first, but after about a week it seemed to get a lot better,” Johnson said. “You just have to get into a routine.”

Brooke Deaton, a freshman, initially quarantined in Maple Hill West while awaiting her test results. After testing positive for COVID-19, Deaton moved into Holcombe where she quarantined for almost a week, 14 days after her first symptom. Deaton quarantined Sept. 3-11. The virus made her extremely tired and she just wanted to sleep all the time, a common theme among the other people on her floor, she said.

With an in-suite bathroom at Maple Hill West, Deaton never needed to leave her room before moving into Holcombe. However, she said she didn’t mind switching dorms as she made friends with the other quarantined students through their shared experience.

Some students isolated on campus picked up new hobbies in order to keep themselves entertained.

Pieterse said she used the time to write music on the guitar with another friend on her floor. Johnson said he worked on learning graphic design, reworking his resume and virtually tutoring his peers in French and chemistry.

“It was strange being quarantined because everything I could do was so limited,” Johnson said. “I’m just glad that it’s over now and I can go out and get fresh air again.”

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