Construction takes place in Downton Reno.

Isaac Hoops/Nevada Sagebrush
Construction continues at Canyon Flats apartments in Downtown Reno on Friday, Aug 14. Students living in the residence halls for the 2020-2021 academic year will be expected to practice social distancing and not have guest over.

Residence halls are preparing to open at the University of Nevada, Reno, but they don’t look exactly like they did before.

Decreased capacity and an increased wait list

According to Executive Director of Residential Life Dean Kennedy, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, housing capacity has dropped from the average of 3,100 students per year to 2,400 students for the 2020-2021 school year. 

Despite a lowered capacity, as of Thursday, Aug. 6, 250 students remained on the waitlist for housing assignments. Kennedy noted many students have withdrawn their housing applications. 

“No more than two students are in a room,” Kennedy said. “Our phase two—which is the philosophy that we’re using—we’ll have about 2,400 students on campus. Around July 24…, we had about 500 students in both phase three housing and waitlisted. So, basically they didn’t have a housing assignment and since that date we’ve been processing cancellations. We’re basically trying to house everybody who has a phase three assignment, and once we’re able to do that, then we’ll move over to the waitlist.” 

Designated “sick rooms”

The university has designated 200 “sick rooms” in the event students feel sick or develop COVID-19 symptoms. Students who test positive for COVID-19 are “highly encouraged” to move off campus until they have a negative coronavirus test result, according to Kennedy. 

“If and when a student is sick, they will be relocated to another space until they can get tested for COVID-19 by the Student Health Center,” the university’s housing website read. “When the student returns to their space (after testing negative for COVID) or transitions off campus or to a quarantine space (after testing positive for COVID), the room where they were residing will be cleaned and disinfected with chemicals approved by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The same will be the case for quarantine rooms when vacated.”

In the event a student is unable to remove themselves from campus, a residence hall will have designated rooms for quarantining. If a student is moved there they will coordinate with housing officials to deliver food and supplies.

Efforts to increase social distancing and disinfecting

According to the housing website, added janitorial staff at the university will use a Victory Electrostatic Gun to disinfect areas. The gun will provide a contactless way for staff to disinfect surfaces.  

As of Thursday, Aug. 13, Washoe County has a total of 1,056 active COVID-19 cases, according to the Washoe County Health District

University housing will only allow for 50 students to live on each floor, and only groups of 25 can gather in common areas. To comply with social distancing guidelines, Kennedy said the university has removed some furniture from common areas. 

Residents can no longer bring in guests

According to Kennedy, students will no longer be allowed to bring guests into the residence halls. 

Despite no guests being allowed in the residence halls, Kennedy explained the university is expecting students to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 guidelines. 

“[The university] can do everything we can to try to provide a safe environment, at the end of the day a lot of that responsibility falls on the individuals to practice responsible behavior, ” Kennedy said.  

No clear plan in event of another closure

In the event the university closes—similar to the events of the Spring 2020 semester—the Housing Department will be providing a prorated refund for their housing and meal plan. Although the policy is in place, Kennedy said there is no clear plan if a similar situation takes place. 

“It totally depends on the nature of the decision,” Kennedy said, “ [Housing and Residential Life] will be following the directives from the governor’s office and the Nevada System of Higher Education, as well as university leadership. I’ve talked with colleagues from across the United States and there’s strategies where if universities go all online housing is still open all the way to housing would close. It’s really going to depend on: what is the situation in the State of Nevada? How is Washoe County impacted? What are the directives and guidelines provided from the governor’s office? …  And in line with best practices across the United States comparing what we’re doing, with other universities.” 

Added trainings and move-in dates

Resident Assistants are being trained online in COVID-19 education, prevention and personal practices. Kennedy said he hopes students will follow the habits set forth by RAs.

Move-in-dates have been stretched out over five days from Tuesday, Aug. 18 to Saturday, Aug. 22. Students will need to sign-up for specific move-in times and are asked to limit the number of family members helping them move. Additionally, no moving equipment will be provided.

Dining to become “grab-and-go” model

As opposed to prior years, dining will be implementing a grab-and-go model. Students will give orders to staff members who will prepare or hand over prepackaged meals. 

According to housing, the university is waiting for the governor’s office and Washoe County to provide a number as to how many students can be seated in the dining facilities on campus. 

Andrew Mendez can be reached at or on Twitter @AMendez2000.