Mich. Student Complains About COVID-19 Quarantine Apartment, Challenges School President to Try It

Students at the University of Michigan who test positive for coronavirus have the option to stay on campus in designated COVID-19 housing — but one says that the conditions are so dismal, the school’s president ought to experience it for himself.

Junior Sam Burnstein recently went viral on TikTok with a video criticizing the accommodations that the university has set aside for students with COVID-19, as well as those who are awaiting tests, exhibiting symptoms or who have been exposed to someone who tested positive.

“I’m making this video to share with you what it’s like up here,” he said from the Northwood apartments, according to his video and the Michigan Daily. “We were given almost no supplies, we were given no food, no masks, no gloves, no microwave, no bed sheets, no soap, no cleaning supplies. Nothing.”

Burnstein said the lone item he’d received was a single roll of toilet paper, and was also dealing with a roach infestation in his apartment.

“I challenge our university’s president, Mark Schlissel, to spend just one night in one of these quarantine apartments and let us all know what you think,” he said.

A spokesperson for the University of Michigan tells PEOPLE that students are not required to use the school’s quarantine housing, and have the option to return to their permanent residences to wait out their isolation or quarantine periods.

Students are allowed to bring with them whatever they need to be “comfortable,” but are all given a furnished bedroom with sheets, blankets and pillowcases, as well as a kitchen with a refrigerator and oven.

Burnstein commented on his viral video to update his followers that he had received a microwave, and the spokesperson said that the school is working on procuring microwaves for each single-occupancy apartment, as Michigan Dining will soon be delivering meals in microwavable packaging to students with meal plans.

“Student Life staff members check in with students every day by phone or email and are asked to share any concerns they may have,” the spokesperson said. “Students are able to call the University Health Service at 734-764-8320, day or night, to speak with a nurse as needed.”

Still, students like Joseph Bickel said that as of Sunday, he had still not received his microwave from the Department of Public Safety and Security, and was forced to rely on delivery services.

“The food situation here is abysmal,” he told the Michigan Daily. “The food that they provide is low-grade and cold. Nothing like what we paid for in the dining halls. I have not brought myself to eat any of it. Most food deliveries occur close to noon, so there really is not a chance for breakfast. The vast majority of my meals have been through DoorDash.”

Other student complaints voiced to the Daily focused on unsanitary conditions, including one student who said she found hair on her bed and floor, and another who said there was used soap in her shower and a broken lock on her door.

Students were also reportedly told to bring two weeks’ worth of clothing because there are no laundry facilities available.

“When walking into the apartments here, the whole time I kept thinking, ‘This feels like a big afterthought,’” Burnstein told the student paper. “It feels like the university had, like, two or three weeks 'till the school year starts and they’re like, ‘Oh, we need somewhere to put these students,’ because everything was just very haphazardly thrown together.”

Schlissel has not publicly responded to Burnstein's video, but on Friday, issued a COVID-19 update in a letter to the school community.

"I again thank everyone for their hard work and diligence as the semester continues," he wrote. "Our progress thus far is because you care so deeply about your classmates, colleagues and fellow community members."

In his TikTok video, Burnstein thanked the Graduate Employees’ Organization, which he said donated leftover supplies and food to students.

“Our saviors in all of this have been the students of the Graduate Employees’ Organization who have been gracious enough to donate their leftover food and supplies to us for the last couple days,” he said. “Because while all this is happening, the Graduate Employees’ Organization has issued its first strike against university since 1975. For failing to keep students safe from COVID.”

The GEO announced on Sunday night that its strike – which began on Tuesday — would continue on through at least Friday, according to the Michigan Daily.

Demands reportedly include increased safety precautions against COVID-19, support for international students and diversion of funds from the Department of Public Safety.

The Daily reported that as of Monday, 20 people at the school were in isolation with a positive test result, while 39 were in quarantine after being exposed or awaiting a test result.

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