A culture of care: A look inside NAU’s quarantine and isolation housing

student putting hand sanitizer on

A middle-of-the-semester move can be overwhelming and frustrating anytime, but especially so during a pandemic. This semester it has become necessary for students living on-campus who have tested positive for COVID-19 to isolate and for those who were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 to quarantine.

University Housing and Residential Life have set aside designated living space on Northern Arizona University’s campus for positive and potentially positive students. This has reduced the number of further exposures on campus.

It has required some creative preparation to ensure students get top-notch care during their 10- to 14-day quarantine and isolation period.

One student, who is remaining anonymous for privacy reasons, tested positive for COVID-19 at the beginning of the semester. The experience was less scary than they thought it would be.

“I was nervous about going into isolation, mostly because I didn’t know what to expect” they said. “It really isn’t as bad as it seems at first. I had a lot of free time in isolation, so I spent a lot of it practicing guitar and talking on the phone with my family and friends.”

Residential Life staff knows how intimidating this move can be for students, so the care management staff is going out of their way to make the transition as easy as possible. When students test positive for COVID-19 or are exposed to someone who has, care managers connect with the students to explain the isolation and quarantine process and what to expect, in addition to answering any questions the students may have.

What is unique about NAU’s care management strategy is the consistent communication, said Robert Alberts, an assistance director in Residential Life who has been spearheading NAU’s care management efforts on campus since the semester began.

“We want to connect with students on a regular basis and make sure that they feel like we are being supportive,” they said. “We understand that it is an overwhelming and sometimes frustrating process to have to move in the middle of the semester, which can impact classes, involvement opportunities and connection within their communities. However, we try and help students and families understand that we are doing our best to maintain the safety of the overall campus and Flagstaff communities.”

One parent, whose student had to be isolated, said the care management staff provided all the support their student needed.

“They did a phenomenal job taking care of my student during isolation. Initially, I had so many questions and concerns, but they were quickly answered, which helped me worry a little less,” said the parent. “I am also grateful the NAU staff had a plan in place, and I cannot thank them enough for taking such great care of my student during isolation, helping to ensure a great year at NAU.”

Staff makes sure students in isolation and quarantine have everything they need, starting with hot, fresh meals from Campus Dining.

At the end of each day, students place their order for the following day’s meals: they get to choose between four different breakfast options and eight different options for lunch and dinner. Three of those options for lunch and dinner change every day and are intended to offer options for all dietary restrictions.

Moreover, the care management staff members work to connect students with virtual events and resources to keep them engaged during their two-week time in isolation or quarantine. Counseling Services has even created a drop-in group for these students so they can connect with others and find community.

And if a student needs something, whether it be medical care or an item they forgot to pack from their room, all they have to do is reach out to a care manager by phone or email.

“At this point in time, I don’t think there has been anything we haven’t been able to bring to a student that they’ve needed,” Alberts said.

A word of advice for those moving into isolation or quarantine from a student who’s lived through it: remember to bring things to keep you entertained. That’s one reason they brought their guitar.

“Also, know there’s plenty of staff that are going to help care for you whenever you need it, and want you to get better as soon as possible. It was almost a little nice to get away from all the distraction of normal life, and spend time relaxing. Your time in isolation will fly by much faster than you think.”


Northern Arizona University LogoMcKenzie McLoughlin | NAU Communications
(928) 523-4789 | McKenzie.McLoughlin@nau.edu

NAU Communications