Keeping COVID-19 away means extra precautions at residence halls


Khánh Nguyễn/The Sunflower

This image shows a connecting hallway between the two buildings that comprise Shocker Hall. Residence halls will have extra safety steps this year.

In case you missed the memo, there are a lot more regulations to keep track of at Wichita State this year. There are even more to remember if you’re staying at a residence hall.

Face masks are required everywhere on campus, including in residence halls, unless someone is walking alone outside or working alone in an office. Masks are not required within apartments and suites at residence halls, provided that roommates agree to this.

Living on campus means taking regular, required COVID-19 tests, keeping faces covered the majority of the day, and not socializing with more than two friends at a time in dorms. And student residents may have to move rooms for an isolation period if they come down with the novel coronavirus.

If a resident is exposed for an extended period of time to someone who catches the virus, they will need to quarantine within their rooms.

Scott Jensen, associate dean of students, said there are fewer students who want to stay on campus this year, and though this isn’t exactly good news, it has allowed staff to prepare spaces to cope with positive COVID-19 cases in residence halls should the situation arise.

Last year, Jensen said the university had about 1,400 student residents at the beginning. This year, the university is starting with about 1,250 residents.

“It does leave us 150 beds that are open, so one of the things we did about three or four weeks ago was to start looking at spaces that weren’t full and start holding them,” he said. “So we have over 100 spaces that no other students are living in and we’re able to, if someone tests positive, to move students into those spaces.”

During the moving process, staff will take a moving cart to the student’s room with a spray bottle of cleaner and a rag so they can sanitize the space they’ve been inhabiting before they leave.

A student would use the cart to grab what they’ll need in isolation and then move to the assigned room for the isolation period.

“We actually leave the keys in your space and that moving cart,” Jensen said. “We’ve done it in a way that we can keep our staff safe, as well as keep students safe.”

It’s not exactly ideal to have to move your stuff while battling the virus, Jensen said, but it is the best way to keep fellow students and staff healthy.

But that’s a worst case scenario.

Returning student Kiah Nesbitt said she isn’t too worried. She said she felt operations were being handled appropriately in residence halls.

“I feel like everything is running pretty much the same,” she said. “We’re taking the safety precautions that are needed.”

Housing and Residence Life also changed the move-in process, including by adding mandatory COVID-19 tests for residents and staff. Students were required to complete a test within 24 hours of occupying their rooms.

Student athletes and employees working in Housing and Residence Life also have mandated COVID-19 tests.

Students who were tested for COVID-19 when moving in said they took a spit vial test, which is much less invasive and uncomfortable than the typical nasal probe test.

Results are coming back quickly, too — students and staff told The Sunflower they received results in two to three days.

“I feel really good about it,” Nesbitt said. “If there are any cases then the campus is catching them when they’re coming in. Most campuses aren’t testing, so it’s nice that we’re offering students getting tested first to maintain the safety of our staff and students.”

“We will struggle with getting people to maintain safety precautions and cleanliness because this is something new,” Nesbitt said.

But she feels like as long as students start off wearing masks, washing hands and keeping distance from others then students will become used to it.

“It’ll become normal for students.”

Testing for residents is happening in the Shocker Hall Building A Multipurpose Room and The Suites’ Media Room from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. daily through Friday, Aug. 21.

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