Confusion remains about isolation room policies


Abram Carter

Kyra Kleinsmith, Zahra Goins and Forrest Nottingham enjoy a nice day outside and take a breather from wearing a mask.

Abram Carter, [email protected], News Writer

With the rise in COVID-19 cases, confusion spreads as questions about UNC Asheville’s quarantining process remain. 

Vollie Barnwell, director of housing and student life operations at UNCA, said currently, the school follows guidance from the Health and Counseling Center staff and listens to CDC recommendations.  

“If a student feels like they want to quarantine on their own, that’s fine, but we are not forcing students to quarantine or isolate until they test positive,” Barnwell said. 

Barnwell said that UNCA is one of a few schools in North Carolina that provides isolation dorms for students. 

There are around 40 rooms for isolating COVID-19-positive students on campus. 

“We still have isolated places on campus, so if a student tests positive and they haven’t developed symptoms yet or they just started with symptoms and got a test and got an immediate result and it’s positive, they should be isolated for five days from either starting their symptoms or from taking the test,” Barnwell said.  

Students said they have mixed reviews about the isolation rooms. 

“I stayed in one my freshman year while I was waiting on my COVID-19 test results,” said Sabrina Betz, a sophomore at UNCA. “I had a good amount of space, but I did wish I could go outside. I imagine it would have been worse if I had to stay the full two weeks.” 

Protocols for roommates and suitemates of a person who tests positive continue to remain in place. 

“This variant has been so contagious that most people who were exposed for an extended period of time are going to test positive,” Barnwell said. 

According to UNCA COVID-19 protocols, if someone in a room tests positive, the roommates should disinfect the space, wear a mask for 10 days and stay away from the infected person. 

The isolation spaces occupy mainly single rooms and students are advised to bring room necessities for however long they will be quarantining. 

“From working in maintenance, I have had to clean out some of the quarantine dorms in the ridges,” said Jazz Cronin, a freshman and maintenance worker at UNCA.

Students should wait five days in isolation before taking another test or taking the next steps.

 “I know that whoever tests positive has to stay there until they test negative and don’t show any new symptoms,” Cronin said. 

Barnwell said food is provided to those in isolation in any area of campus, including residence halls. 

Students may choose where to stay for their isolation period, with choices of  staying at home, in an isolation room or their residence hall dorm. 

“I think it is a little unfair sometimes because many students don’t have the option to leave campus sometimes,” Betz said. “I guess the policy makes sense, but also they are not very accomodating to people still in dorms.”

After finishing the isolation period, students must follow the requirement to wear a mask and remain cautious. 

Students can receive a school-provided N95 mask at the guest service desk in Highsmith Student Union. 

“You are supposed to wear a mask for five additional days even during normal activities. On our campus, that’s fairly easy because we have mask-required policies anyways,” Barnwell said.

As of now, Barnwell said the school’s COVID-19 policy recommends students who test positive to either call after-hours or submit a form on the university website to keep a record of cases and provide help for the next steps. 

“If a student has had close contact or possibly exposed, there’s nothing and no guidance that we have as far as quarantine or isolation, except they need to go get tested,” Barnwell said. 

The UNCA campus is now providing testing on weekends and surveillance testing during the week. 

What the school’s COVID-19 policy means for the future is unknown.

“I think there is definitely room for improvement as far as really making sure students and staff are getting tested regularly, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccine status,” Cronin said. “In my experience, I have had fellow peers continue to attend class knowing they are ill, due to their grade depending on attendance, so it’s definitely frustrating for us all, but I think we as a school can reevaluate and do better.”