Merlini Hall being used to quarantine students

By Hadassah Umbarger, Staff Writer

Merlini Hall, the vacant residence hall on campus, hasn’t been used for two years. Now the old building has been given a new job as a safe area to keep infected or possibly infected students separated from their peers and teachers.

Interim Director of Residence Life Turner Middendorf said that if an on-campus student has been in contact with someone who has a confirmed positive case, they will have to move to Merlini.

"They’ll be quarantining over there, meaning they can still move about the building…" he said. "Once they are confirmed positive is when they are in isolation, not quarantine, and that's when they are not allowed to leave their room for pretty much anything.”

Middendorf said that both students who are simply waiting on their test results and those who have tested positive will stay in the hall together. There are two separate wings in Merlini: one for students who have COVID-19 and another for those who might have been infected.

Students who have the coronavirus or who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive aren’t the only ones who can be quarantined, though. Extra precautions are being taken with out-of-state students.

Middendorf said that all international students and students from some of the hotspot states had to quarantine for 14 days as soon as they arrived on campus.

Ian Lee, who is from Canada, had to stay in quarantine before starting school.

“It wasn’t as bad of an experience as people would think,” Lee said. “I did have an area like a lobby that I could go talk and socialize, at a safe distance, of course, and also...a small outside area. So you know, we're not just trapped in the dorms all day.”

With the extra hall being used, resident assistants are being presented with unique challenges this semester.

“Because we have quarantining students in Merlini, there needs to be an RA in there overnight as long as there are students living in there,” RA Rebecca Ortiz said. “And so we have to rotate it basically by volunteering to spend the night, or spend a few nights in the medical hall.”

But Merlini isn’t the only place that possibly infected students are staying.

“If a student is expected to have COVID, or if they have tested positive for COVID, we send them to that building,” Ortiz said. “If they have, say, teammates or close friends who came in contact with them a certain amount of time before they went into quarantine, then those students would quarantine in their own rooms in their respective halls, as long as they have no symptoms or have not tested positive.”

The team members received word on Monday that their teammate's test was negative. They are now free to leave their rooms and be on campus.

Even if you don’t think you’ve been in contact with anyone, Middendorf said, students who don’t feel well should speak with their RA and should stay home from class so they don’t infect others.

“If, as a resident, you're not feeling well, please, please, please contact your RA so we can get you moved over [to Merlini], or at the very, very least, quarantined in your current room. It's really going to come down to each and every student. That's going to ultimately decide if we stay open or not, in my opinion,” Middendorf said.

PHOTO: Taylor Stevens, Staff Photographer