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What UK is doing to support students in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 this fall


By Meg Mills
University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky Health Corps team is leading the charge to support a safe, reinvented normal on campus. Included in their work is supporting students who have tested positive for COVID-19.

“No one wants their student to test positive, but if they do, UK is doing the best they can to wrap their students with resources, make them comfortable and keep the campus safe,” said Sarah Nikirk, executive director of UK Auxiliary Services.

Here is a step-by-step explanation of a day in the life of a student in isolation. Please note the following terminology:

• Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. People who test positive are isolated.
-Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. People who have been in close contact with a sick person or positive case are quarantined.

The UK turf team paints “Mask Up Cats” in front of the library. (Photo by Mark Cornelison)

You’ve tested positive, now what?

• A UK Health Corps contact tracer will call to inform the student that they have tested positive and will explain what the test result means including details of symptoms, high-risk pre-existing medical conditions and what to do if more severe symptoms develop.

• The contact tracer will also discuss resources available to and create an isolation plan for the student. Students have two options — if possible, they can return home to recover, or they have the option of on-campus isolation housing. There are three different residence spaces reserved for COVID-19 positive students, Ingels Hall, University Inn or the Clarion Hotel.

• Transportation will be provided to students that need it through UK Transportation Services. A van with plexiglass has been created to ensure the safety of all parties.

What should you expect when you arrive at your isolation housing?

• Upon arrival at isolation housing, the resident manager will walk the student to their room and make sure they understand all of the resources available to them. There is one student per room and one student per bathroom. Each room has two bottles of water and two snacks available upon arrival. Linens and towels are provided for each student.

• Each student in isolation receives three nutritionally balanced meals a day from UK Dining — specific dietary needs are noted — delivered to their doors. Bottled water is also delivered twice a day.

• Laundry services are another amenity provided. Every seven days a student can have new linens and also have their own personal laundry done for them.
Trash is picked up every day.

• Students have 24/7 resources from their resident managers. Resident managers sit the front desk from 7:30 a.m.–11 p.m. every day and are on call after 11 p.m. Resident managers give students their cell phone number so students may call or text any time of the day.

• Resident managers also pick up food or groceries that have been delivered to the front door and then deliver to student rooms if food is ordered by 10 p.m.

What support is available for students?

• Outside of isolation housing amenities, students have wellness, academic and financial coordinators available to them. Wellness coordinators are hired through UK Health Corps specifically to help students in isolation.

• A COVID-19 support group via Zoom has been created to allow students to talk to peers in similar situations.

UK students wearing masks during day-to-day activities on campus due to COVID-19. (Photo by Pete Comparoni)

• A nurse is available to students in isolation who they can contact when University Health Services (UHS) is not open.

• Additionally, if a student who tested positive has a roommate, UK will place the roommate under quarantine and provide the cleaning of their shared spaces and place and have meals delivered to them as well.

“There is someone at either UK Health Corps or UK in general trying to help students working around the clock — making sure the rooms are sanitized, the meals are being delivered and anything else that needs to happen in order to serve the student,” Nikirk said. “We are doing everything in our power to help the students in these spaces. We are using every service possible to make them comfortable.

“Again, we don’t want anyone to have COVID, but if they do, we want to serve them to the best of our ability and get them back to their residence hall room.”

Contact tracing and student resources will continue throughout the fall 2020 semester and as long as necessary. UK is taking the advice of and working closely with local health departments and public health officials during this time.

For any questions or concerns about COVID-19 on campus, please email healthcorps@uky.edu or call 859-218-7233 (SAFE).

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