IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa is apologizing for how a student was treated after testing positive for COVID-19 and has committed to handling cases differently in the future.
The apology came after a post was widely shared on social media from a person identified as a freshman living in the Daum Residence Hall, recounting an experience not fit for “my worst enemy.”
“The experience described does not meet the expectations of the university, Housing and Dining, and most importantly you, the students. For that, I am deeply sorry,” said Von Stange, assistant vice president for Student Life and senior director of University Housing and Dining, in a message to students Thursday. “Our team has reached out directly to the student who shared the post to get more details about their experience.”
The student reported getting a COVID-19 test after two days with a headache and a temperature of 100.1. The post’s author recounts more than two hours on the phone arranging a test and then walking from the dorm on the east side of campus across the river to the UI Hospitals and Clinics on the west side.
According to the social media post, after receiving a positive result, the student reported to the residence hall assistant and was told to quarantine in “my room.” Four hours later after 11:30 p.m., “I was told I would be moved to an isolation room in Currier.”
The person was instructed to walk “by myself” from Daum to Currier, not offered help moving a “heavy cart of my things.”
After arriving in the isolation room, “It was AWFUL!” the student reported. “It was dirty, gross, and disgusting.”
The student reported asking for another room and being told there were no others available.
The stress induced a panic attack, according to the post, causing the student to pass out.
“Paramedics had to be called,” according to the student, who reported eventually sleeping on the floor of a room across the hall that was less dirty than the first room but “still really dirty.”
The freshman reported being told to not share about the circumstances and that those the student had been in contact with still hadn’t been quarantined or tested.
“The only way they found out they were exposed is because I told them,” the person wrote, adding about the university: “They are telling students and parents they are prepared for COVID, but they lied. They are not.”
The university has reported spending the last few months cleaning and sanitizing residence halls, classrooms and other campus buildings. Crews have rearranged classrooms to facilitate social distancing, and added technology for more hybrid learn.
The UI did not require the thousands of students moving into its dorms this week to get tested first — like at Iowa State University, which found 175 positive cases.
The UI this week issued more guidance to students and employees who get sick this semester — including an encouragement they self-report a positive diagnosis “so the university can assist with academic and work arrangements, cleaning, and communication.”
The guidance does not require they report a positive test to the university. In response to a question from The Gazette about whether the UI has such a mandate, spokeswoman Beck said, “We cannot require someone to self-report a medical condition.”
“However, as we have shared, employees and students who violate the health and safety acknowledgment agreements … will be addressed through human resources and the Office of Student Accountability,” Beck said.
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The student and employee health and safety agreements commit them to use face coverings in public; socially distance; frequently sanitize hands; stay home if symptoms develop; and contact a health care provider “to determine if I have COVID-19.”
If diagnosed, students and employees are required to isolate for 10 days and until they have improved symptoms and have been fever-free for 24 hours without medicine. They also must cooperate with contact-tracing efforts.
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