Instead of walking across campus with bags packed and pillows in hand to make their way to on-campus isolation housing, some Ohio State students living on campus who tested positive for COVID-19 are boarding buses to a Marriott hotel on Olentangy River Road.
A university spokesperson confirmed that Ohio State is using the hotel as off-campus quarantine and isolation housing for those who test positive for COVID-19. Two students quarantining at the Marriott said they were surprised by their location assignment.
“They asked me if I wanted to go home or if I wanted to go into isolation. I chose to stay on campus,” Ethan Deutsch, a second-year in chemical engineering, said. “That’s when they told me we’d be going to the Marriott.”
More than two-thirds of Ohio State’s available quarantine and isolation housing is occupied, with 208 students in isolation housing and 104 in quarantine housing, according to Ohio State’s COVID-19 dashboard, which was last updated Thursday with data from Tuesday. The 462 total quarantine and isolation beds counted on the dashboard includes those at the Marriott.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, quarantine is for people who have been exposed to a disease and isolation is for people who are sick with the disease.
Deutsch said he was tested Tuesday and notified that his test was positive Thursday. He reported to an area on North Campus behind Archer House at around 5 p.m. Thursday where he waited for a bus with about 10 other people, including Joseph Sewell, a second-year in chemical engineering on a pre-med track.
Sewell said students who tested positive were paired up with each other as roommates, and that his test results shocked him.
“It just caught me by such a surprise, so I was freaking out,” Sewell said.
Sewell said he took his test Tuesday and received the result Wednesday evening that he was positive for COVID-19. He has not been tested since arriving at the Marriott Hotel.
When Sewell learned his result, he said he immediately told his RA, who said to expect a call. He then called BuckeyeLink and was redirected to the Wexner Medical Center, the Student Wellness Center and finally to University Housing, who did not pick up. He then reached out to the contact tracing department, who did answer.
“The guy who got in touch with me, he’s super nice,” Sewell said. “He’s like, ‘Oh you lucked out man, Lawrence is full until the weekend.’”
Deutsch and Sewell both received an email with instructions for entering quarantine and isolation housing, complete with a list of items to pack, including clothing, school supplies, toiletries, other essential personal items and a blanket.
“We will provide you with bed linens and a pillow,” the email reads. “If you have a favorite pillow or blanket, we suggest you bring it with you!”
The documents also state students who test negative while in quarantine are still expected to quarantine for the full 14-day period. The isolation period usually lasts 10 days.
Student Health Services will notify students as the end of their quarantine approaches, according to the Quarantine and Isolation FAQS and Campus Resources document.
Hotel staff provides meals and other necessities by delivering them outside students’ doors, Deutsch said. Laundry is not available in quarantine housing, according to a document distributed by the Office of Student Life, but despite the inconveniences, Deutsch said he thinks the university is handling the situation well.
Deutsch and Sewell were both called by mental health services to reassure them that despite being in isolation, they are not alone.
“I feel like they’ve done a really good job, everything is really, really nice,” Deutsch said. “I feel like they’re really trying to take care of us.”
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that students were placed in quarantine and isolation housing at the Residence Inn by Marriott. This is not true. There are two hotels managed by Marriott on the property. Students were placed in quarantine and isolation housing in the second hotel, the Marriott Columbus University Area. The story was updated to reflect this Sept. 14, 2020, at 12:26 p.m.