Picture of East Hall sign

Starting next month, East Hall residents will be relocated to free up more quarantine space for the Spring semester.

East Hall residents received an email Monday saying their time living in the dorm was up.

The dorm, located in the center of campus southwest of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, will be turned into another on-campus quarantine facility for the Spring semester, according to the email. UF is making the transformation out of an abundance of caution, it read.

As of Wednesday, 784 students and faculty are quarantined both on and off campus, according to UF’s COVID-19 dashboard. Currently, UF’s on-campus quarantining facilities are at 7% capacity.

In mid-October, UF saw its second largest surge in COVID-19 cases since early September. On Oct. 17 the university’s dashboard reported a seven-day average of about 59 cases a day — at the end of September, the average was about 22.

Early September saw the semester’s largest surge in cases, with the highest seven-day average being about 121 cases a day, reported Sept. 8, according to the dashboard. 

East Hall, located at 528 Gale Lemerand Drive, currently houses 156 students, wrote UF spokesperson Steve Orlando. He said UF chose the dorm because it has the fewest number of residents that would need to move to a new location. According to UF Housing, the dorm’s full capacity is 210.

Orlando said all residents have to move out of the dorm by Dec. 19. 

In the email students received, UF Housing wrote that students could request three residence halls for their new housing assignments, ranked in the order they want them. Available dorms include Beaty Towers, Fletcher, Graham, Hume, Mallory, Reid, Sledd, Tolbert and Yulee Halls. 

Orlando said East Hall residents will maintain the same rental rate regardless of the cost of their new housing assignment. He also said residents won’t be able to cancel their housing contract.

Residents were also told they could continue rooming with their current roommates or request to move in with a friend who has a vacancy in their room. 

Ryan Buchanan, an 18-year-old mechanical engineering freshman, said he was surprised by the email, but he’s OK with the change.

“I have the potential to live in a nicer dorm and pay the same price,” he said.

Buchanan said he hasn’t minded living in East Hall, but he only chose it because of its engineering living learning community. But, he said there haven’t been many gatherings among the dorm’s engineering students.

He said he isn’t very attached to the dorm, because most of his friends don’t live there. Next semester, he’s hoping to live in Hume, Beatty or Tolbert.

“I get that they need more quarantine spaces,” Buchanan said. “The part that’s a little bit ridiculous is that they don’t give you the option of canceling the housing contract.”

Students are expected to move into their new dorms starting next month, according to the email. UF Housing has “limited packing materials that are available upon request,” but it will offer moving and transportation services for students who request help moving to their new dorms.

The available move-out times are Nov. 20-25 and Dec. 9-19. UF Housing said it will swap keys and move students’ belongings during these scheduled move-out periods.

Satesh Singh, an 18-year-old UF English freshman, said he was worried about COVID-19 when he came to UF, but he wasn’t expecting an entire dorm of students to be moved out.

“I was honestly kind of shocked — it sprung up out of nowhere,” he said. “I wish I would’ve gotten a little more warning about it.”

Now, Singh said he’s going to do research on the available dorms before he makes a decision by Friday — the deadline for East Hall residents to decide where to live.

“If I’d gotten more time, I would’ve been less stressed about it,” he said. 

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Staff Writer

Thomas Weber is the health reporter for the Alligator. He is a junior journalism major at UF who has previously interned for the Gainesville Sun.