Esperanza Hall has recorded 13 positive cases of COVID-19 since Oct. 17, leading the university to encourage residents to get tested every two weeks, while still officially recommending monthly testing and re-shuttering amenities within the hall.
They are the first incidents of COVID-19 in the residence hall at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, according to a Nov. 11 statement provided to The Mesquite by the university’s COVID-19 Monitoring Group.
The cases at Esperanza Hall were part of a spike in COVID-19 cases campuswide. The spike represented the university’s first probable cases of on-campus transmission, according to the statement.
“Based on our campus-based contact tracing interviews, we’re reasonably confident that a lack of adherence to the basic health and safety protocols — wearing a face covering and maintaining at least six feet of social distance — explains the increase in cases and the probable on-campus transmission,” members of the group wrote in the statement.
According to its “Community. Safety. TOGETHER.” webpage, A&M-San Antonio has a total of 80 student cases, including the 13 dorm residents. To date, 15 employees have tested positive.
Reports and updates on COVID-19 cases are sent out through emails and updates on the website at noon each Wednesday, counting both those who have and have not been on campus.
An Oct. 28 report showed 10 cases overall that month in Esperanza Hall with seven of those students self isolating. So far, November has shown a positive count of three cases, all self-isolating within the residence hall.
“In general, a resident who tests positive is immediately asked to self-isolate,” according to the statement made by the COVID-19 Monitoring Group. “They may do so on campus, in a designated isolation room, or off campus. The resident’s roommate and suitemate(s), due to possible exposure, are placed in quarantine and advised to be tested.”
Criminal justice freshman Tiffanie Romero, who’s been living in Esperanza Hall since the spring semester, said she feels that this semester has been isolating.
“To me, compared to last year, this year is more lonely because you can’t hang out with as many people,” Romero said. “But even with the self-isolation it’s hard because you can never really know who your suitemates or even your roommates hang out with. So sometimes you gotta be very careful with who you’re around.”
Romero said things were looking up for about a week but took a turn following Halloween. This led to all amenities except for the trash and laundry room to close, which hasn’t helped the lonely feeling. But Romero says she does find positivity in the way the staff has responded to the dorm students’ situation.
“…like the fact that the cafeteria staff are nice enough to bring the meals to the doors, like when we can’t go out to go get them,” Romero said. “And I think that’s just, I don’t know, I think that’s just amazing.”
Romero and another resident who asked not to be named said two-week testing was recommended in early November when cases for COVID-19 started to rise on and off campus. In response, Esperanza Hall and A&M-San Antonio sent out emails for more frequent testing in hopes of stopping the spread.
According to these residents, students receive an email the second week of these two weeks, letting them know they need to get tested by that coming Friday. They receive results by email within 24-48 hours if the test was taken at the on-campus COVID-19 Test Center located in portable 101B.
The university has not responded to The Mesquite’s Nov. 18 questions about the dorm testing.
Esperanza Hall currently houses 275 residents and as of Nov. 9, the on-site Test Center has administered 881 COVID-19 tests, including multiple tests from the same individual.
“We also encourage them to test more frequently,” the university’s COVID-19 Monitoring Group wrote in a statement to The Mesquite. “The testing services are available to the residents here on campus, at no cost.”