New Brunswick

Window signs prompt laundry, food donations to students locked down in UNB's Magee House

Violet Eliza-Sioux James taped a new message on her apartment window Thursday morning.

'I've never seen a community rally behind people like this before,' says resident living in lockdown

Residents of Magee House on the University of New Brunswick's Fredericton campus are in quarantine after at least eight people tested positive for COVID-19. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

Violet Eliza-Sioux James taped a new message on her apartment window at the University of New Brunswick on Thursday morning.

James hung the New Brunswick flag in her window with folded paper in the shape of a heart to say thank you to community members who have shown support and offered help to students living in Magee House, a student residence in Fredericton with an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

"I've never seen a community rally behind people like this before. … Incredible neighbourliness and kindness that is sometimes hard to find these days."

To date, eight cases are "linked to" the outbreak declared Monday at Magee House, Public Health said.

The university residence is under lockdown until May 8.

Sending a message to the outside world

Earlier this week, James, her fiancé and their roommate each claimed a window inside their UNB apartment to put up posters. Among the messages: "No laundry," "Press welcome" and "We deserve care."

"During those first two, three days we really had nothing," James said. "We didn't have a lot of communication. We had barely any answers."

James said the posters were a representation of how people were feeling inside the residence.

Violet Eliza-Sioux James hung up a New Brunswick flag and papers in the form of a heart on windows to thank community members for their support for people at the locked-down Magee House residence. (Violet Eliza-Sioux James)

Magee House has 101 apartment-style units for mature students. Many of the students living there are also new to Canada.

Following a CBC News article, the university residence held a virtual meeting Wednesday afternoon, where the stuents'  concerns were addressed with university officials and an official from Public Health.

The Magee House residents were told they would be receiving laundry service and wouldn't have to pay grocery fees.  

"We're able to move forward in a way that works for everyone, instead of just most people or just some people," James said. 

The 23-year-old said she has received an outpouring of messages from people offering to help students dealing with food insecurity or who have young children. 

People in Fredericton have been offering to drop off snacks and donations of items that might be needed.

Sioux James has been taping posters on the inside her windows to let people know what life has been like living in isolation. (Violet Eliza-Sioux James)

"Other people were reaching out to say, 'We're behind you and we hear your story and we support you,'" said the environmental sciences student.

"That was absolutely amazing."

Since the lockdown started on Saturday, James has been cleaning her apartment with Lysol wipes and opening windows to get some fresh air.

Another sign inside James's apartment to show how residents are being treated while in isolation at Magee House. (Violet Eliza-Sioux James)

She has asthma and her fiancé has a brain tumour.

Although she understands why the lockdown is happening, she said the situation has been "scary."

UNB says supports are in place

Heather Campbell, a spokesperson for the University of New Brunswick, said supports in place include better improved cleaning and sanitation service, grocery delivery, counselling services, activities for the children in Magee House, and on-site medical support.

She said a plan for laundry is being worked out, but grocery deliveries have been made since Sunday.

Violet Eliza-Sioux James lives with asthma and says she's worried about getting COVID-19 during the outbreak in her residence at the University of New Brunswick. (Violet Eliza-Sioux James)

"As more contact tracing and testing is completed, plans and actions are revised, and this information is provided to students," she said in an emailed statement to CBC News on Thursday. 

Campbell said the university is in daily contact with individuals and families living in the residences through emails, phone calls and Teams updates. 

"A large team of staff are working around the clock to provide support to our students and our campus community."

James sticks a New Brunswick flag in her window to show her gratitude to residents offering support to students living at Magee House. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

James said talking about these services is a first step, but residents still need to see it happen. 

"It's going to need to be put into place for it to be mission accomplished," said James, originally from Peterborough, Ont.

There are also still people inside Magee House who have questions.

"I would say we're taking the first steps for sure," she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip? elizabeth.fraser@cbc.ca

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