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Cal Poly students in quarantine are criticizing their living conditions

Posted at 6:51 AM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-11 09:51:15-05

Cal Poly student, Ellie Abundo, tested positive for COVID-19 at the beginning of winter quarter and says she was ordered to isolate immediately.

"It feels like prison, like prisoners get more time outside than this," said Ellie Abundo, Cal Poly student in quarantine.

The students who are isolating are not allowed to leave for any reason, even to go outside to get fresh air.

"Mentally right now, the fact that the school has been shutting down everything that I've said so far is really degrading honestly," Abundo said.

Abundo says she sent an email to administration at Cal Poly, explaining what is wrong with their quarantine situation for students and advocating for the improvement of amenities.

"I do understand that they want to stop the spread, and obviously I do too, but just I feel like they were not prepared to take on this many people at all," said Abundo.

Abundo says the rooms are cramped and contain more people than intended. She showed us her isolation room, which housed her and a roommate at the beginning of her isolation.

"I'm pretty sure these rooms were supposed to be singles, because it's like a 100 square foot like tiny bedroom," said Abundo.

Cal Poly Media Relations Director Matt Lazier responded on behalf of the university, saying in part, "...in order to provide more on-campus isolation space, some beds are located in rooms that have been increased to double-occupancy (two to a room instead of one). These are rooms that are built to allow for double-occupancy (with layouts of windows, doors and switches that allow for bunk beds); have been approved by the state Fire Marshall for double occupancy."

The students are required to test after the first 5 days in isolation and if the COVID-19 test comes back positive they must quarantine for an additional 5 days.

In an effort to free up isolation spaces on campus, Cal Poly is offering select students a $400 university store gift card as an incentive to isolate at their permanent residence.

"So we're paying $300 for food in isolation, and they're getting paid $400 just to go home. So that's like a $700 difference just to go home," Abundo said.

Abundo says the meal plan is lacking options, and the cost is more than she budgeted for this quarter.

"My meal plan, personally, I can't afford to eat $30 a day. I'm on the lowest one, so I'm definitely going to have to tighten up for the rest of the quarter because of this," she said.

Academics are also a concern for students in isolation.

Professors are not required to accommodate students missing class for being sick, according to Abundo. She says she has missed a significant number of classes at the beginning of the quarter due to mandatory isolation and is worried she is falling behind.

"I'm sure my grades are going to suffer later for it, because, I mean, this is just the beginning of the quarter. I already missed all of syllabus week, I'm missing all of the second week too," said Abundo.

Cal Poly students tell us they feel safe when attending classes here on campus, but they think the quarantining situation could be improved.

"It seemed kind of silly the way they were doing it where, yeah, they had us all test during the first week, but you still had to go to your classes the first week before you'd even gotten your results back," said Sebastian Dryan, a Cal Poly Student.

"I don't think that it's being handled very well. People are saying that it can be up to 10 days or that you have to submit a negative test to come back, but I think that there can be a lot of changes," said Megan Seth, another Cal Poly Student.

In a response, Cal Poly said that the need for housing and low case rates in the fall influenced the decision to convert some student isolation beds back into housing.

"The number of on-campus isolation beds was lower at the start of this quarter than it has been in the past. One reason for this is that our case rates were very low in the fall and the university had multiple requests from students in significant need of housing — and some isolation beds were converted back to standard housing, to accommodate those students’ needs...In the past, about 50 percent of students who test positive have chosen to return to their permanent residences to isolate... It is important to note that in all cases in which students return home, they are instructed to do so only if they agree not to travel by public transportation and only if there is no one at their home in a high-risk category," said Matt Lazier, Cal Poly Media Relations Director.

For more information about COVID-19 at Col Poly visit the online campus dashboard.