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OU addresses move-in, housing, testing concerns amid COVID-19 during Facebook livestream

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Walker Tower

Walker Tower on October 21, 2019.

OU Housing and Residence Life addressed concerns regarding move-in, COVID-19 testing and measures that will be taken in the event of a student testing positive in a July 22 Facebook livestream. 

Move-in is scheduled for Aug. 11–14 for residents of Adams, Couch and Walker Towers, David L. Boren Hall and Dunham and Headington colleges. ShaRhonda Maclin, OU’s executive director of Housing and Residence Life, said all guests, including parents, will be asked to remain outside of each facility during move-in. 

“We feel this will help us mitigate risks when it comes to providing seamless service for our families to move into university housing,” Maclin said. “We were really wanting to present a process that meets the needs of our students (and) helps with the health and safety of … staff, students and their families.” 

Live-in OU Housing staff will be required to take a COVID-19 test before students' arrival on campus, which Maclin said the department will finance. Maclin also said move-in teams will be required to be tested, and they will undergo a separate screening process within their company. 

Maclin said OU’s guest policy requiring all visitors to receive screening before entering campus will remain. Following move-in, she said OU Housing will wait until the launch of OU’s Phase III plan Aug. 1 to finalize its guest policy and decide whether or not visitors will be allowed in dorm rooms. 

Maclin also said she realizes move-in is difficult for both students and their families. OU’s Student Affairs, she said, is committed to creating transitional events throughout campus so families have an opportunity to say goodbye to their students. 

“We’ve been trying to take your creative ideas, from do-it-yourself kits where you can get a map of a student’s room and help them lay out how they will set up their rooms to photo opportunities in specific spots around campus,” Maclin said. “We understand this is a very difficult time for this particular class, and … we are working tirelessly to listen and hear you.” 

OU’s Chief COVID Officer Dale Bratzler again addressed OU’s announcement requiring COVID-19 testing for students who plan to live in university housing. Bratzler said this decision was well thought-out and is meant to prevent infected students from entering university housing. 

“We had talked about the possibility of testing after students arrived on campus, but we felt that strategy would potentially allow somebody to move in … and expose roommates, people in the common areas or other students,” Bratzler said. “We’re trying to minimize the number of people that come in, so there’s going to be … a lot of changes with respect to housing.” 

One of these changes includes limits on people who can enter residential buildings. Bratzler said students’ keys will admit them into their residence hall, but it will limit access to their respective floors. 

Students will also be required to wear a mask and practice social distancing as much as possible, Bratzler said. When students are in their rooms, however, Bratzler said they will be allowed to take off their masks. 

Maclin said housing staff will provide a designated bedroom and bathroom to students who test positive for COVID-19 as they self-isolate. Until they are cleared through OU’s Health Services, OU Housing will provide them with several resources. 

“We will have meal plan services developed for those students … (and) they will have what they need in order to continue with online instruction with their faculty,” Maclin said. “Also, just to have some point of contact, my team has put together a plan where they would check in with those students daily … as well as (receive support) … from our mental health professionals.” 

Although Bratzler and Maclin were able to address some concerns, many questions were left unaddressed in the Facebook livestream’s comments section. OU’s Marketing and Communications content manager and livestream moderator Melanie Foster acknowledged this and said OU Housing will continue updating its Frequently Asked Questions page to guide the OU community through move-in. 

“We are working tirelessly (with) all teams to figure out what can be the best solution with the information we have at this moment,” Maclin said. “Please make sure you stay in tune with (your) email as well as on our social media channels. … This is an evolving situation and we thank you for your patience.”

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