How will UT students quarantining in dorms get their meals?

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Photo Credit: Destiny Alexander | Daily Texan Staff

Students who are self-quarantining and are secondary contacts are still allowed into UT dining halls to pick up food, sources from University Housing and Dining and University Health Services said.

Students who test positive for COVID-19 are removed from campus buildings, but primary and secondary contacts to positive cases face less strict regulations from the University, according to previous reporting by The Daily Texan. UHD director Rene Rodriguez said students waiting for test results while experiencing symptoms can pick up food in the dining halls, but Susan Hochman, University Health Services associate director of assessment, communication and health information technology, said only students not experiencing symptoms can.

UHD did not respond to multiple requests for clarification on whether or not symptomatic students awaiting test results will be allowed in dining halls.

“(University Health Services) has said they can still come into the dining room because everything is to-go there,” Rodriguez said. “They can fill up the box and then take it to the room and still quarantine safely.”

Hochman said the statement from UHD was not entirely true. She said students who are self-monitoring because they are secondary contacts can go into the dining halls, but students experiencing symptoms and awaiting test results cannot.

“If they have symptoms and are awaiting positive test results, they are told to self-isolate and will no longer be in the residence hall, even if they have not been confirmed positive,” Hochman said.

Quarantined students in dorms can also request to pick up a meal at the J2 or Kinsolving dining halls through a form and pay for their food online to avoid additional contact, Rodriguez said. He said if students are following mask, hand-washing and social distancing protocols, dining halls will remain safe.

“It’s not like they’re having to touch anything or things like that,” Rodriguez said. “We still have all our protocols, washing hands and all the dispensers with hand sanitizer. There are options.”

UHD and UHS will only notify primary and secondary contacts of COVID-19 cases in residence halls through email despite protest from students, according to previous reporting from the Texan.

Neuroscience freshman Frida Espinosa said she lives in Jester West Residence Hall and heard about COVID-19 cases in the building from other students. She said she is taking precautions to stay safe and has bought groceries and made her own food so she does not have to visit dining halls.

“I have been avoiding going to dining halls,” Espinosa said. “Even though they do a good job at making sure people are (socially distanced) and they have their masks, there’s still groups of people that sometimes don’t follow (the rules).”

Business freshman Elizabeth Hernandez said UHD notified her when an individual tested positive in Jester West, where she also lives. The email from UHD recommended she “self-monitor and continue practicing social distancing.”

Hernandez said she feels concerned about how she will receive meals from the dining halls during her quarantine.

“I would feel comfortable asking (someone on my floor) to go get me food and just tell them (to) please leave it outside my door,” Hernandez said. “That’s the only way I can think (of) to come into the least amount of contact with the least amount of people.”

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected since it was originally published in print on Sept. 18 to clarify statements from Rene Rodriguez and Susan Hochman about who can pick up food in the dining halls. The story has also been updated to say that quarantined students in dorms can request food through a form.