The Daily Gamecock

Student apartment complexes close amenities, limit gatherings to combat COVID-19

Approximately 6,000 students live in dorms on USC's campus, but the rest of the undergraduate population – about 75% to 80% of students – live off-campus.

Off-campus student apartments have introduced measures such as closing amenities and reducing gathering in apartments to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Kayleigh Roberts, the community assistant for Redtail on the River, said the complex is required to report any COVID-19 public health mandate violations to USC.

“We are reporting it to USC if anyone is in [our amenities] when they shouldn’t be, so like, if we see someone at the basketball court or in the pool or whatever, we do have to kick them out and tell them, and then we'll tell USC,” Roberts said.

Many student apartment complexes have closed down their amenities and other high-touch areas. Brandon King, customer experience and sales manager at The Village, said the complex has limited access to its amenities and closed down the movie theater and coffee bar.

“We have limited guest occupancy within the apartments to 10 occupants allowed in the apartments,” King said. “That’s monitored by our private security company who, after-hours, they patrol the community, and they make sure that that’s not being violated, and any kind of violation, they immediately address and then bring to our attention so that way we can evaluate everything.”

21 Oaks "immediately" shuts down any kind of gathering of more than a “handful of people,” according to community assistant Jeffrey Okeke. He said there are punishments for people who violate 21 Oaks’ community guidelines.

King said in The Village students who violate COVID-19 public health mandates will face consequences “on a case-by-case basis.”

“A lot of the ones we’ve seen so far, they are people who, they have not been aware of the 10 guest occupancy limit,” King said. "If they do come into contact with being in violation of anything like that, then we go on a warning basis, and then we typically never see another issue from that apartment or from those kinds of people who are found in violation."

Madelyn Kierce, a third-year public health student, lives at The Village and said there haven't been many parties since the first week of the semester.

"I know one of my friends said security got called and told them if they didn't leave, then the cops would be called," Kierce said.

Redtail has not had any cases where they have had to punish anyone, but “if there’s parties or something, we definitely would,” Roberts said.

While most apartment complexes are following the same basic guidelines for implementing COVID-19 precautions, there is a difference between how apartments deal with reported COVID-19 cases.

Mykayla Capeles, a third-year public relations student, is a resident of the Station at Five Points. She said she hadn't received any information about COVID-19 precautions prior to moving in.

Over the summer, she said the complex emailed residents twice to say employees had tested positive. She has not been notified about any residents testing positive, Capeles said in an email.

"It's upsetting that they wouldn't, just take precaution of where we live," Capeles said in a phone interview. 

Capeles said during the summer, the Station made people sign into the gym, but they are no longer doing that.

The Daily Gamecock reached out to the Station three times by phone and has yet to receive comment.

The Village informs its residents and their parents if someone gets COVID-19, but doesn’t release any personal information, King said. It also does contact tracing "whenever a resident does report to us that they have tested positive."

“We take the appropriate measures to alert any possible residents or any people who’ve been exposed or possibly exposed,” King said. “We do alert the residents, as well.”

Redtail informs its community if people have tested positive, “but we don’t give specific numbers,” Roberts said.

21 Oaks doesn’t tell its residents if anyone has had COVID-19. Okeke said informing residents of other people’s health conditions is an invasion of health privacy.

“We don’t give numbers to the residents. We usually isolate that person or that apartment,” Okeke said.

21 Oaks resident Lily Averkamp said she wishes they'd tell the residents the case numbers. 

"I think it would help a lot if they would tell us if there's cases in our own building," Averkamp, a second-year marketing and human resources management student, said. "And see where the cases are stemming from, maybe within the apartments."

Averkamp said she believes that 21 Oaks is doing a good job with closing down amenities, but she wants them to be more communicative about COVID-19.

"More precautions could have been handled when we first moved in, such as cleaning," Averkamp said. "Within the gym and stuff, there could be more precautions held, like them coming to check if people have masks on in the gym."

The Daily Gamecock also reached out to Empire, the Station, Olympia, Granby, Palmetto Compress, Reigns and Stadium Suites for this story and has yet to receive comment.


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