Some students at The University of Tampa have been quarantining at the Barrymore Hotel, in accordance with UT’s quarantine procedures as outlined in the Spartan Shield Health Safety Plan. Although this is common knowledge for members of the UT community, guests staying at the Barrymore Hotel are not made aware of this at any point during their stay.
“Oh wow okay, no I wasn’t [aware],” said Brandy Brown, a guest of the Barrymore Hotel, when told that UT students were quarantining at the hotel. “Most people, yeah, they’d probably want to be aware of something like that,” said Brown.
On the UT website under the “COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions” section, it states, “If students need to quarantine in a residence hall, there are a number of rooms reserved for this purpose in Urso Hall and at the Barrymore Hotel.”
Although this is public information, as of Friday, Oct. 2, there are no statements pertaining to the isolation of UT students at the hotel on the Barrymore Hotel’s website. Additionally, there are no warnings during the process of booking a room online.
On Tuesday, Sept. 22, a Minaret reporter called the Barrymore Hotel to inquire about whether people were quarantining at the hotel. The employee who answered the phone said that, to their knowledge, “no.” The employee also stated that the staff doesn’t have access to medical records and that students come there for housing purposes only.
It’s unclear how many students have had to quarantine at the Barrymore Hotel. Jennifer Scaia, associate dean of Student Conduct, Orientation and Residence Life, could not provide a specific number of students who have had to isolate at the Barrymore Hotel specifically since the start of the Fall semester.
“A good faith estimate of the number of students in quarantine and isolation at any one point is the number of positive cases – reported for the most recent week on the COVID-19 University website – multiplied by 2.5,” said Scaia. According to this, for the week of Friday, Oct. 2, there could have been roughly 112 students quarantined, either in the Barrymore Hotel or Urso Hall.
The Barrymore Hotel has been in partnership with UT for over 20 years and has regularly been used as an on-campus housing facility. This year, however, there are no UT students living in the Barrymore Hotel full-time, according to Scaia.
Students quarantining at the Barrymore Hotel are allowed to leave their rooms from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day to go outside for fresh air or pick up food or deliveries. This period of time is meant to provide students relief from their isolation rooms, but it poses a threat for guests in the vicinity of the hotel.
Cady Nessralla, sophomore political science major who quarantined at the Barrymore Hotel the weekend of Saturday, Sept. 12, recalled that during their designated outside time, several students would congregate in hotel spaces. In a previous Minaret interview from Friday, Sept. 11, she also commented that passing guests were not wearing masks around them.
“When I went down to get food there was nobody in the elevator with me but there were a couple people in the lobby of the hotel and like none of the hotel guests wear masks, I haven’t seen any with masks on,” said Nessralla. “Imagine staying on a vacation and all of these kids could have COVID staying in your hotel.”
Hotel staff at the front desk appear to know that students are at the hotel to quarantine as well.
“One day I was asking for new towels and I called [the front desk] and the lady was like ‘we’re not allowed to go on that floor, you guys are in quarantine,’” said Sofia Aparico, freshman journalism major who quarantined at the Barrymore Hotel from Wednesday, Sept. 16 to Monday, Sept. 21. “The day before I asked for trash bags and the person I talked to was like ‘of course, like yeah we can bring you trash bags we’re just going to have to knock and leave it at the door like we can’t see you,’ so, they definitely knew.”
Larry Collier, director of hotel operations at the Barrymore Hotel, sent the following statement in an email:
We have always housed university guests, students, separate from other guests, for their comfort and safety. We do not divulge information regarding any guest, except in cooperation with proper authorities acting within their jurisdiction.
For months now we have executed our 25 points of care with enhanced cleanliness and sanitation throughout the facility. Our staff has been trained in the proper use of PPE, we have installed physical barriers where feasible, and we have signed all areas to encourage proper social distancing. Hand sanitizer is available at all elevator landings as well as each entrance and exit and throughout all public spaces. Masks are required in all indoor public spaces and when proper social distancing cannot be maintained. Masks are available free of charge at our front desk and on request. All of the hotel staff is currently enrolled or has completed the American Hotel Lodging Association’s Safe Stay training. As an essential business, the Barrymore Hotel Tampa Riverwalk has remained in operation throughout the pandemic, housing guests, with no known infections occurring.
There are signs in the lobby area promoting mask-wearing, social distancing, and other methods to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, however none of them say that the building is being used to isolate students. Guests staying at the Barrymore Hotel agree that this information should not have been kept from them.
“That’d be a little concerning,” said an anonymous guest of the Barrymore. When asked if they wished that information would have been disclosed prior to arriving, they said, “Yeah, yeah. That’s definitely something…that’s a lie right? Oh my god.”