University of Richmond uses modular homes for isolation, quarantine spaces

Updated: Sep. 10, 2020 at 3:11 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - University of Richmond leaders say they are the first higher education system in Virginia that will use modular homes on campus for student isolation and quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last of the 25 trailers were dropped off during the first week of September.

Since late April, university leaders put together a plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus come the fall.

“We worked with an immunologist who helped us with the number to look for – we worked with a 5% model – and were able to secure the number of modular units for quarantine and isolation to meet the guidelines that were given to us for the amount of students we do have residing on campus,” said Patrick Benner, Director of Residence Life and Housing on campus.

Over the summer, they were able to secure a partnership with a Florida-based company to make this modular unit idea possible.

“From all the conversations I’ve had with everyone across the state, no one has gone down this path, no one was going down this path,” Benner said.

Benner hopes what leaders have done at UR will serve as an example for other universities and colleges across the Commonwealth.

“We’ve been very, very proactive and the blessing we have is that we’re a small institution and we’re also being very cautious,” he said.

In addition to all students being tested for COVID upon arriving on campus, these 25 trailers were brought in for student isolation and quarantine as a worst case scenario.

“It’s allowed us to have these units on campus and separated from our residential facilities,” Benner said. “So, students are not placed in isolation or quarantine in a residence hall or space where other students are living.”

Twenty of the trailers are designated for isolating up to 100 students.

“They’re single bedroom units,” Benner said. “They have their own bathrooms, own private entry, and those are located up near our student health center.”

Five modular units, which have 10 rooms and four bathrooms in each trailer, are for quarantine measures.

All modular units are equipped with the necessities students may need.

“The basic furniture needs,” Benner explained. “Students are going to need a microwave, refrigerator. We also installed televisions in each one of them with Roku, ethernet access that we’ve put into every single one of these units.”

So far, the university has not had to use these trailers.

As of Sept. 8, the university reported four active cases on campus, with 7% of the isolation space occupied.

However, due to the low case count and the number of students opting to go online this year, Benner said they are utilizing one of three smaller dorms that were blocked off as contingency plans for isolation and quarantine.

“We’ve been very fortunate with what we’ve done and the success that we’ve had with our students,” he added.

Additionally, Benner said students will be supported academically, mentally and nutritionally.

“Our dining services staff has been fantastic,” he added. “The resources and the options that the students are getting to pick for the delivery of the meals, even having certain things that needed to be refrigerated, labeled for things of that nature, have been great.”

“We know the students are going to have to be in here for a period of time, so we wanted to make sure they had all the amenities, and they’re comfortable and similar to their dorm room,” said Paul Lozo, Director of Environmental Operations. “Our goal was to make them as comfortable as we could.”

If a student tests positive or shows symptoms, the student will be met and transported to one of the units, when deemed necessary. They will isolate for at least 10 days or quarantine for 14 days.

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