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'We took all the precautions, and it still happened': LLC leaders discuss Spruce floor quarantine



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Most IU students living in the Inspire Living-Learning Center in Spruce Hall are quarantined either in Ashton Center or at home after a resident tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. IDS file photo and Junhui Wu

Most residents in the Inspire Living-Learning Center in Spruce Hall were quarantined starting Aug. 29 following a positive COVID-19 case in the LLC.

The Inspire LLC houses students with majors in the School of Education. This includes freshmen students and upperclassmen peer leaders.

Peer leaders aid LLC members academically, said Katie Cierniak, assistant director of the Inspire LLC. They also help the freshmen students navigate campus and college life.

IU sophomore Jason Nguyen, a peer leader in the LLC, said on Aug. 29 when he and everyone else in the LLC were deemed close contacts, they received an email from IU instructing them to go into self-quarantine and there was chaos.

Nguyen said although they only knew as much as the freshmen did about quarantining, the peer leaders tried to calm everybody down.

“With peer leaders, we’re trained to be like their mentor — their academic mentor, their emotional mentor,” he said. “But when it comes to COVID, we were not trained because we kind of left that with the professionals.”

More confusion followed that evening when contact tracers gave contradicting instructions to close contacts.

A contact tracer called Nguyen’s roommate at about 6 p.m. and informed him since they were living in a suite with a private bathroom, they could self-quarantine in-place instead of relocating to either Ashton Center or their homes.

This turned out to be false information when another contact tracer reached out to him later that night and informed him he had only two options as a close contact: move to Ashton or return home.

Nguyen said about three other peer leaders in the LLC, who also lived in suites, were given the false information by contact tracers. He said most people were called by contact tracers around 8 p.m. and given the final official instruction to move out, but some got the call at midnight and some the next day.

“It’s definitely miscommunicated — of what we were going to do,” Nguyen said. “And that’s where the chaos stands.”

Kirk White, co-chair of the IU-Bloomington COVID Response Unit, said although he doesn’t have information about the specific case, IU’s recent upticks in COVID-19 cases have increased contact tracers’ workload.

As a peer leader, Nguyen said his role was to keep the floor calm and serve as emotional support for group leaders and freshmen. He said since moving into quarantine, all the residents, both freshmen and peer leaders, have checked up on each other almost every day.

While IU gave the close-contact residents conflicting instructions, sophomore Courtney Mansfield, another peer leader at the LLC, said everyone came to a collective decision to stay in their respective dorm rooms and not come out right after they received the email notifying them to go into quarantine at about 3 p.m.

Mansfield said she felt frustrated it took them half a day to figure out what to do next for self-quarantining. She said many in the LLC didn’t know close contacts needed to move out to Ashton or their homes.

“I am a planner, and I like to kind of know ahead,” she said. “So since it all came down on the same day, there was just a lot of we-don’t-knows, a lot of questions.”

But despite the quarantine and the confusion in just her second week on the job, Mansfield said she still loves being a peer leader and enjoys working with her coworkers.

“All ten of us, we work so well together, so I think that because we are in this time that is a pandemic that we are able to as a team work through these challenges and obstacles,” she said.

Nguyen said people weren't mad when the infected resident apologized in the LLC’s GroupMe group chat. He said he felt sad because the floor abided by health guidelines and took the precautions.

“There are a few cases in Spruce, so they might have thought it would have been like — they touched a handle,” he said. “And boom, boom, boom, all this happened.”

LLC residents abided by social distancing rules well and wore masks in the communal areas, some even in their own rooms, Nguyen said. He said when the LLC members went out for masked, small-group night walks on campus before the quarantine, they would even call out individuals not wearing masks when they saw one.

“We wanna stay here,” he said. “We did a very good job saying, ‘Hey. I don’t wanna get sick. You don’t wanna get sick. I don’t wanna be isolated from you guys. Let’s do this together.'”

Nguyen said he had hung out with the infected resident a lot but both of them had worn masks when they were together. Nguyen tested negative for COVID-19 before his quarantine began.

“This community, we took all the precautions, wore masks, socially distanced, and it still happened,” he said. “So please, oh please, wear a mask. Please, just do it, because it works. So far this person is the only person who got a positive case.”

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