VCU begins to prepare student dorms for non-COVID-19 patients

VCU students upset schools boxed up belongings

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health System said it will begin caring for non-COVID-19 patients in the Honors College residential housing if the need arises.

VCU and VCU Health System are working with state and local officials to prepare in the event of a surge in patients caused by the coronavirus epidemic that could exceed the total capacity at the VCU Medical Center.

“I was really shocked. I almost didn’t believe it was real,” freshman Leah Tyrell said.

It was the reaction many VCU students had after seeing a viral video of the VCU honors dorm transformed into a medical wing.

Students have been off campus for weeks after the school decided to move to online classes for the remainder of the academic year.

“They told us to come and get the essentials and stuff,” Tyrell said.

Tyrell said the schools told students to come and get the necessities but promised students could properly move out before the end of the school year. But rooms inside have been cleared out, with items and belongings being boxed up and shipped out to storage.

“They said it was in a storage unit somewhere in Richmond. I have no clue where that is,” Tyrell said.

Students say the school never told sent any information before starting the project.

“Our trust was violated. Our privacy was violated and we feel like we were forgotten,” Tyrell said.

VCU said in a statement in part:

“Unfortunately this work began before we were able to notify students and their families of this emergency decision. We apologize and we are operating in a crisis situation with many moving parts. We will do better and ask for your understanding as we work through this crisis together. Our priority remains the health and safety of our students and our community. We hope that there is no need to use the building for overflow low-level acuity patients, but we consider it part of our community service mission to be prepared to help in this time of crisis. There is every intention to return the building to Honors College housing once the crisis has passed.”

Students who lived in the dorm say there’s a silver lining to this.

“I’m very happy VCU is stepping up and helping the Richmond area. We don’t care about that. We are mad we didn’t get a warning,” Tyrell said.

The Honors College housing was originally built as a hospital; minor modifications have begun. For more information, click here.

Read the full statement below:

VCU and the VCU Health System are working with state and local officials to prepare in the event of a surge in patients caused by the COVID-19 epidemic that could exceed the total capacity at the VCU Medical Center. One of the sites that has been identified for potential non-COVID-19, low acuity patients is the Honors College residential housing, which originally was built as a hospital. Minor modifications have begun to ready the building to accommodate non-COVID-19, low acuity patients and their medical care. Students whose belongings are in the Honors College housing are being inventoried, boxed, labeled and relocated to storage at no cost to the student. These students have now been contacted by Residential Life and Housing with more information on retrieving their belongings. Unfortunately, this work began before we were able to notify students and their families of this emergency decision. We apologize for that. We are operating in a crisis situation with many moving parts. We will do better and ask for your understanding as we work through this crisis together. Our priority remains the health and safety of our students and our community. We hope that there is no need to use the building for overflow low level acuity patients, but we consider it part of our community service mission to be prepared to help in this time of crisis. There is every intention to return the building to Honors College housing once the crisis has passed.

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