“As we navigate the uncertainty of the covid-19 pandemic, this is one way that GW can show our support for the hard working and dedicated front line health care teams,” Bass said in a statement.
The announcement comes as the District prepares for a surge of patients. What started as a few cases in early March has exploded to more than 16,000 reported cases and more than 400 deaths in the District, Maryland and Virginia. City officials estimate hospitalizations will peak in June, and some doctors and other hospital staff who will be exposed to the virus are expected to choose alternative housing rather than risk spreading it to their families.
The university — in partnership with its hospital, School of Medicine and Health Sciences and GW Medical Faculty Associates — also recently began offering drive-through coronavirus testing for patients referred by their primary-care providers.
The moves reflect the new priorities of some colleges and universities, many of which are offering their mostly vacant campuses to help fight the virus. In New York, a hot spot of the virus in the United States, New York University also made room in residence halls for front-line medical workers, said Andrew Hamilton, the university’s president.
But some GW students have complained that their needs aren’t being considered. When GW said last month that it had hired a moving company to gather the belongings left behind by students after campus closed, some students were livid.
“This is ABSURD,” one student wrote in an online petition that garnered 1,460 signatures. “Students who are paying to live on campus HAVE THE RIGHT to personally move out their belongings.”
Students raised privacy concerns, among other issues. Students with prohibited items — weapons, drugs, 3-D printers — were told to report their contraband.
Seth Blackburn, 19, was among the students who signed the petition asking GW to allow students to retrieve their belongings.
“I was just a little frustrated because the messaging in the beginning from them was a little shortsighted,” said Blackburn, a sophomore and political science major. “We didn’t have a choice in the matter anymore and we were forced to have GW do whatever they would with our belongings that we left behind.”
Blackburn said most of his belongings are still on campus, including clothes, books and school supplies.
“No one loves the idea of someone going in and touching your personal belongings,” he said. But, he acknowledged, “the most pressing issue is containing the virus.”
GW students, like thousands of others across the country, did not have much notice before they moved out. Many left for spring break expecting to return to campus, only to be told to stay away.
GW has offered to pack and store students’ clothes, books and other belongings at no cost. Officials have cited safety concerns, urging individuals not to return to campus.
“We do not believe it will be safe for students and their families to return to campus in the coming weeks to move out on their own accord,” officials said in a message to the campus. The university said it hired “a professional moving company trained in the most up to date safety and security measures, including a video chat and photographic documentation of belongings.”
Students’ belongings will be stored until the beginning of the fall semester. In the meantime, leaders are considering ways to ship items or allow for pickup.