A week ago, 19-year-old Jessica Cohen brought her laptop when she flew home to Las Vegas for spring break, but left behind other belongings in her dorm at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Now Cohen has less than a week to return and collect her stuff. And she is not the only one.
The university said Thursday that most students who live on campus must move out by 5 p.m. Wednesday in order to comply with directives from top state and education officials as concerns over the coronavirus pandemic continue to roil nearly every facet of daily life.
The freshman’s mother, Las Vegas school nurse Lori Cohen, said she understood protecting public health. But she also questioned whether the rapid order would cause unwanted intermingling between people during a period when health authorities urge avoiding crowds to risk spreading the virus.
“It’s a recipe, for everyone, for disaster,” she said. “It’s not a time to be having kids, anybody, driving across the state and converging in big numbers to get their stuff.”
There are 3,100 students who live on campus during fall and spring semesters, according to the university’s website. Yet it was unclear how many were local, out of region and out of state.
“This decision to take this step was not made lightly,” UNR said in a statement. “It is in the best health and safety interests of our student population that we ask that this is done carefully, and expeditiously.”
In an email Thursday to alert affected students of the directive, UNR Executive Director of Residential Life, Housing and Dining Services Dean Kennedy said the university had set up measures with health and safety in mind.
In particular, each student was to sign up for a check-out date and time between Friday and Wednesday, specific to their residence hall.
“Because your health is paramount, these appointment times have been designed to ensure social distancing as students are checking out,” the email said. “We are following recommendations to avoid situations where too many people are sharing the same space at the same time.”
In its statement, the university said it was committed to allowing those without other options, such as international or homeless students, stay through the end of the semester May 13. It also said it would consider locking rooms of others who cannot return and work out a more suitable time for them to check out.
Jessica Cohen estimated there were between 500 to 600 students in her building. There are even more students in Wolf Pack Tower, the temporary residency at Circus Circus hotel-casino set up last year after a boiler explosion destroyed portions of two campus buildings and displaced 1,300 students.
She said she signed up to get her belongings, clean out her dorm and ensure it was vacant by 1 p.m. Sunday.
The plan, she added, is to leave on Saturday.
UNLV, which has offered to prorate room and boarding costs, has also required most of its students with other housing options to move out, giving them until 5 p.m. Saturday. UNR said it would offer partial meal-plan-only refunds.
Both universities are set to begin online-only instruction on Monday in wake of the coronavirus crisis.