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Students express concerns over UCLA Housing’s decrease of COVID-19 isolation rooms

The UCLA COVID-19 Action Plan website is pictured. The university reduced the number of isolation dorms available to students who test positive for COVID-19 this year. (Julia Zhou/Assistant Photo editor)

By Mridhula Thyagarajan

Oct. 21, 2023 7:52 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 22 at 10:08 p.m.

UCLA Housing decreased the number of COVID-19 isolation rooms for the 2023-2024 academic year.

In previous years, dorm buildings and university apartments have been used as isolation housing for students who tested positive for COVID-19. Although isolation housing is still provided for on-campus students who test positive, there are a limited number of dorms available.

The number of isolation rooms was cut down because of low usage last year and the need to provide year-long housing to undergraduate students, the UCLA Infectious Diseases Management Team said in an emailed statement.

“Isolation bed utilization did not exceed 18 spaces for the entirety of winter and spring quarters despite the fluctuation in case volume,” the IDMT said.

The statement also said the decrease in the number of isolation rooms was influenced by lower COVID-19 case rates and the need to spread resources across multiple pandemic-related measures.

If the number of students requiring isolation housing exceeds the number of rooms available, they will be placed in double or triple occupancy rooms, the IDMT said.

Multiple students were already confined to the same room last year, said Tina Karami, a second-year psychobiology student who tested positive for COVID-19 last school year and was required to isolate in De Neve Evergreen. Karami said she was placed in a double occupancy room, which made the process more stressful because of possible varying degrees of sickness.

UCLA also provides other forms of assistance to students who possibly have COVID-19, including free PCR tests, free masks and antigen testing for a reduced price, IDMT said in the statement. There is also a COVID-19 hotline to call for additional guidance.

However, students living off-campus said there is minimal help available to them.

Isabel Delgadillo, a third-year chemistry student, said she chose to stay in her apartment after testing positive for COVID-19 and has been deciding how to isolate on her own. She added that she attempted to call the COVID-19 hotline to gain some clarification on how to properly isolate, but no one picked up and she has not attempted to contact them again.

“If I constantly tried to reach out to them, they would probably have more answers, and I’d probably get a response eventually, but I got discouraged,” she said.

Delgadillo said she understands the reasons UCLA is cutting down on isolation housing, but she also worries about students who might not be able to find their own ways to successfully isolate.

“It is a hindrance to people who can’t go home or can’t isolate in their rooms,” she said. “I couldn’t even imagine if one of my roommates was immunocompromised, like what I would do if I couldn’t go home.”

Sean Kim, a second-year molecular, cellular and developmental biology student, said he had to stay on campus in isolation housing during winter break when he tested positive for COVID-19 last year to avoid infecting family members.

Kim said he worries about the reduction in isolation dorms because having to isolate in the normal dorms is likely to increase the spread of the virus, especially to roommates who may be at higher risk if they are immunocompromised.

“They should have the COVID dorms because it’s essential to the patients’ roommates, especially if they don’t have anywhere near them to go back home and recover,” Kim said.

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