On Thursday, Sept. 3, Western Carolina University announced the expansion of its quarantine housing.
In an email to village residents by the executive director of residential living, Bryant Barnett, there are more than 40 vacant rooms across four empty houses (700, 1790, 1900 and 2100) at The Village.
The Village at WCU is a group of six residential buildings dedicated to the housing of Greek organizations and themed communities
“These spaces are optimal to act as overflow for quarantine and isolation spaces should Madison become full,” Barnett said.
However, the introduction of these new quarantine rooms leaves some students concerned about their safety.
“We weren’t asked for our opinion. It’s just happening, and I really think it’s a disservice to the students because at least my house that I reside in has on either side an empty house, so we’re going to be sandwiched in between quarantine houses,” village resident Diana Lewis said. “When we were told that we are coming back up here, the main reason for Madison Residence Hall being used is the fact that it is an isolated building with nothing surrounding it, so now it’s like that premise was thrown out the window.”
This decision makes people question whether WCU has begun the discussion of shifting classes online and what it would take for that to happen.
“University leadership is assessing its operational plans on a daily basis, assessment that includes considering the possibility of shifting the method of delivery of academic instruction if conditions warrant. There is not a specific number of cases that would trigger a pivot away from face-to-face instruction,” WCU spokesman Bill Studenc said. “That decision would be based on several factors, including number of cases on campus, testing positivity rates, quarantine capacity and condition in the larger Jackson County community.”
Barnett notes that quarantined students are not permitted to leave their room of residence until they are released by Health Services or decide to isolate at their home address.
“Signage will be posted at these houses stating that no unauthorized visitors or deliveries are allowed. There should be no face-to-face interaction between Village residents and any student assigned to quarantine or isolation space at The Village,” Barnett said. “For The Village residents that routinely practice the standards set forth in the WCU Catamounts Care Campaign – maintaining physical distancing, wearing your facial coverings, and washing your hands frequently – this use of the empty houses should not pose any additional risk to Village residents.”
According to WCU’s COVID-19 Dashboard, between Aug. 21 and Sept. 6, there have been 346 tests administered with 34 returning positive amounting to a 9.8 percent positive test rate. The total number of quarantine beds on-campus in use is 12 with 72 residents isolating off-campus. WCU has a total of 83 remaining beds reserved on-campus.
WCU’s COVID-19 Dashboard can be found here. If you wish to discuss any concerns, contact Residential Living at 828-227-7303 or Health Services at 828-227-7640.