UVM to remove isolation housing for 2022-23 school year


Abbie Kopelowitz

Jeanne Mance Hall April 20. The residence hall will no longer serve as COVID-19 quarantine housing as of the 2022-2023 school year.

UVM has no plans to provide COVID-19 isolation housing for the 2022-23 school year, according to an April 19 email from Gary Derr, vice president for operations and public safety.

Jeanne Mance Residence Hall, which served as isolation housing for the entire pandemic, is slated for conversion back to traditional housing, Derr stated. The decline in COVID-19 cases compared to previous semesters motivated UVM to retire isolated housing and have students quarantine in their own dorm rooms.

UVM will decide the fate of Slade Hall and the Cottages, which also previously acted as isolation housing, during the summer, he stated.

“At this stage of the pandemic, the focus continues to shift away from the number of cases toward health impacts and outcomes,” Derr stated. “This is particularly the case among highly vaccinated populations with strong protection against the coronavirus, such as our university community.”

The University continues to detect promising trends of less severe health impacts from COVID-19 infections, he stated. Students are experiencing less severe symptoms than other populations, largely due to a nearly 100% COVID-19 vaccination rate.

The University reported 64 positive test results in the week of April 11-17, with 98.6% of students testing negative, according to the webpage. The University recorded 875 total positive COVID-19 cases since Jan. 4, 2022, averaging about 55 positive cases per week.

Based on COVID-19 and its variants, it is likely that a roommate will have already been exposed and infected by the time the other roommate tests positive, Derr stated. UVM will release specific plans for in-room isolation this summer per recommendations from the Vermont Department of Health.

Most of the previous pandemic protective measures will no longer be necessary because nothing indicates the University is in an actively highly-infectious pandemic phase, he stated.

The University will continue to require all employees and students to be fully vaccinated, Derr stated. This includes both incoming and current students.

Sophomore Shannon Baker will be a Resident Advisor in Jeanne Mance next semester, she said.

“I feel like there’s still a lot of people getting COVID and being in quarantine,” she said. “Hopefully [the situation is] good enough that we don’t need quarantine housing, but I don’t know what [the University is] planning.”

Baker said she’s pleased RAs won’t have to enforce the same kinds of rules surrounding COVID-19 restrictions as they did earlier in the pandemic. She has friends who are RAs and didn’t like constantly enforcing the mask mandate in the hallway.

UVM lifted the mask mandate March 19, according to a March 21 Cynic article.

Last year, several RAs complained the administration had a disappointing communication style and vague expectations concerning COVID-19 regulations, according to an April 6 Cynic article.

At the peak of the pandemic, RAs were expected to write up students who broke the Green and Gold Promise which often led to suspension, according to the article. The policy switch came abruptly and created tension between RAs and students in residence halls.

RAs are now no longer in charge of enforcing any COVID-19 restrictions, Derr stated in an April 22 email. The University anticipates such restrictions will not be necessary unless the situation with the pandemic changes.

Kevin Hytten, interim director of residential life, declined the Cynic’s request for comment.