Amid rise in coronavirus cases at U.Md. dorm, school tells residents to restrict activities for 2 weeks

The University of Maryland is telling students at one of its College Park residence halls to restrict their activities for the next two weeks amid a recent rise in coronavirus cases in the dorm.

The students being asked to restrict their activities all live at Denton Hall, which houses 247 students. The students are asked to practice “enhanced social distancing” — their movements around campus will be limited and their meals will be delivered three times a day.

The university confirmed the details of the activity-restriction order in a statement Friday afternoon.

Over a two-week period, 23 residents of Denton Hall tested positive for the coronavirus, a university spokesperson said. Those students — along with 9 people who were identified as direct contacts — have all been isolated or quarantined at Leonardtown Apartment Community, which has 12 garden-style apartment buildings.

Overall, the university’s quarantine housing is at 74% capacity, according to the school’s coronavirus dashboard.

In the last two weeks, approximately 350 students have either tested positive for the virus via campus-administered test, or self-reported a positive test, according to the dashboard.

The university restarted some limited in-person classes on Monday.

In a story dated Sept. 16, the school’s student newspaper, The Diamondback, reported that 35 athletes had tested positive.

The restricted-activity order for Denton Hall goes into effect at 5 p.m. Friday. Students who have not tested positive for the virus and who have not been moved to quarantine housing have the option to return home to their primary residences for the next two weeks.

Those who choose to stay on campus have been asked to avoid public spaces as much as possible, for example: limiting their time in public bathrooms and refraining from visiting communal spaces within their building.

The school said students who are under the restriction should be able to return to normal campus activity by noon on Oct. 2.

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The AFSCME local 1072, which represents over 3400 employees at the university’s College Park campus, sent a message to news organizations just after noon on Friday about a “new large outbreak” at the campus that had forced the school to enact a “stay in place order” for the dorm.

The statement from the union said that it was concerned that the university’s actions to control the spread of the virus on campus “have fallen short” and not properly taken into consideration the health and safety of its members and their families, and “now, hundreds of students are at risk.”

The university, in its statement, called the activity restriction “a precautionary measure to help stop the spread of the virus.” The measure, the school wrote, was enacted in consultation with the Prince George’s County Health Department.

Students who live in Denton Hall have been asked to visit on on-campus testing event early next week at Maryland Stadium. Those who choose to return home were asked to notify the university by the end of the day on Sept. 18.

Students who stay on campus during the next two weeks will be required to take their classes remotely and also not go to work if they have jobs.

Students are asked to wear their masks at most times, but are encouraged to leave their dorm in order to get fresh air and exercise.

Case managers will be assigned to help students who remain on campus. One case manager per floor will be available.

The AFSCME’s Stuart Katzenberg said the union is concerned because a number of its employees work as housekeepers, electricians, dining services workers and maintenance technicians in the residence hall.

Katzenberg said members of their union have indeed contracted the virus that causes COVID-19, Katzenberg said.

“We have a significant Latino population that speaks Spanish, and a significant number of Haitian/Creole employees,” he said. “Just the other day, our members were not given any information in Spanish in order to get the mandatory testing that they want. We’re still waiting for a response form management on that.”

Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

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