Penn State Beaver has discovered an asymptomatic student with COVID-19 as a result of random surveillance testing implemented by the university. The student has been placed in isolation at a nearby hotel, along with several other students who were identified through contact tracing as having possible exposure.
An employee of that hotel has now quit, saying she is unwilling to risk any possible exposure to the virus.
The university said it is using the hotel as part of its mitigation protocols in accordance with university policies and guidelines from the state Department of Health.
“The campus has an agreement with an off-site hotel to house students who must quarantine, according to (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance,” Campus Relations Director Kristen Doerschner told BeaverCountian.com.
“Students are transported using a company that specializes in medical transportation and there are campus staff members housed on site with the students to maintain quarantine protocols and to support the student needs ranging from food, medical attention, mental health and education,” Doerschner said. “Penn State provides food and delivers it to the individual rooms of those students who are quarantined.”
Faculty members are also being randomly tested for the virus, with none having a positive result to date.
The university has an online dashboard available that enables members of the public to track cases on each of its campuses at https://virusinfo.psu.edu/covid-19-dashboard.
The dashboard currently shows 1 positive case from 186 random tests, with 85 results pending.
The Ad Hoc Quarantine Facility
Janet Mabin, who worked as a housekeeper at the Suburban Extended Stay Hotel in Center Township, told BeaverCountian.com she quit her job yesterday after being told by a supervisor they would be housing the students from Penn State.
“I left because hell no,” Mabin said. “This is a serious virus, this is not something you play with. Hell no, I’m not having any of it … This is the first time you’d ever find me telling on anything, but I’m telling on this because it’s dumb.”
Mabin said she has small children and older family at home and was concerned about possible exposure.
“They’re bringing (the students) in from the back entrance and having them use the back stairwell to go to (another) floor, like that makes some kind of difference,” Mabin said. “They have half of the floor reserved for (Penn State) and the other half is for other guests who aren’t being told what’s going on … The hotel is booked solid except for the rooms reserved for Penn State.”
Kristin Crinot is the managing partner of C&L Hospitalities that operates the Suburban Extended Stay Hotel. She told BeaverCountian.com that her company has taken every precaution possible to ensure the safety of guests and staff.
“I think hotels have since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak served as homes away from home for people who have been exposed to the virus,” Crinot said. “I have a lot of people’s lives in my hands, both guests and employees.”
Crinot would not confirm whether the hotel was acting as a quarantine facility for Penn State, citing guest privacy, but said her staff are trained to assume that all guests may be harboring the virus.
“That is our baseline position, that every person who enters the building is a COVID-carrier,” she said.
As an extended stay hotel, Crinot said the Suburban rooms all have windows that open to the outside and have their own kitchens and appliances; independent heating and air-conditioning units mean no ductwork connects the rooms to each other or to the rest of the facility.
“If you walk into one of our hotel rooms you have everything you could need, kitchen equipment, refrigerators, high-speed internet — you can literally walk in and not come out until two weeks later,” Crinot said.
“Where we are today is we have $1,000 electrostatic sanitizing sprayers. We use them prior to entering the room to protect our teams. We use them after we clean the room to protect our guests. So we have a double sanitization process to keep everyone safe,” she added.
Along with standard precautions like the use of disinfectants and the wearing of masks and gloves, Crinot said she and her team have had sleepless nights thinking of every possible safety measure they could for staff and guests.
“We removed the bibles from the rooms because they can’t be sanitized, all of the TV remote controls have been replaced with smooth controllers that can be 100% sanitized. Since we are an extended stay facility, we have dishes in the room. We used to put the dishes away after cleaning them, now everything is in the dishwasher so our staff doesn’t touch them before the guests do.”
Crinot said the smell of fresh coffee brewing in the lobby is now gone, replaced with the odor of Lysol. She acknowledges that despite all of the precautions, risks may remain for her workers who are considered essential by the state. Several employees at other hotels have also quit over fears of possible exposure, or at the recommendations of their doctors because of preexisting conditions known to be factors in more serious disease progressions.
Crinot said her company has helped those former employees get all of the state and federal benefits available to them.
“Every hotel in the country has people quarantining from COVID-19 whether they know it or not. Our process is to make sure we’re minimizing the exposure,” Crinot said. “Your biggest exposures are the people in your lives who refuse to believe the virus is real, who refuse to wear masks, who refuse to accept that it’s in our communities … I feel proud of what our teams have done to keep safe.”
Mabin said she was in tears yesterday when she told her boss she wasn’t willing to assume whatever risk may come from working in a facility that is acting as a quarantine for guests known to be COVID-19 positive.
“I loved my job, I actually enjoyed what I did, but hell no,” Mabin said. “I’m a go-getter, and I’m going to go get another job. I’ll be OK, I’m sure.”