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Inside an isolation dorm: How UNF is keeping COVID-19 numbers down

UNF has averaged six positive cases a week in September, according to the tally on their website.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — As Florida colleges crack down on partying, Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week he would consider a "bill of rights" for students to keep them from getting punished.

In Jacksonville, colleges and universities have not had the same problem with an overwhelming number of coronavirus cases like other schools have. First Coast News set out to see what they think they're doing right at UNF and got a look inside their student isolation dorm.

UNF has averaged six positive cases a week in September, according to the tally on their website. Every day Dr. Doreen Perez, the UNF healthcare coordinator for COVID-19, makes the rounds checking on students in the isolation dorm, which is Building W.

She says the most they've ever had in the dorm is eight students at once. There were three in the dorm Friday. 

"It's coming and going all the time," Perez said.

Building W is set up perfectly for this sort of thing, with doors opening to the outdoors and private bathrooms. A nursing and COVID-19 testing station is set up in the rooms across from them.

"If the students need something they just pop out," Perez said. "They wave to one of the other students, you know the nursing students."

Perez says more than half of the university's 17,000 students are learning virtually. To keep the number of cases down among the rest, she credits quick planning and her team. Perez has military experience and another team member was involved in helping after 9/11. They looked at tackling COVID-19 no differently.

"A nice variety of experience, know-how, and camaraderie," Perez said.

As much as they're focusing on physical health, they're also making efforts in mental health. They have a 24/7 nursing call line and counseling call line.

"TLC is what we call it," Perez said. "We sit down and we talk with them. I have students sit down and talk with the students here in isolation for 15 minutes every day."

Perez calls the dorm set-up a win-win because nursing students are getting clinical experience there.

They're getting clinical hours and they're doing everything they would've done in Brooks [Rehabilitation]," she said.

See the latest number of new coronavirus cases UNF is reporting here.