Tag Archive for COVID-19

Wesleyan Community Honors Pandemic Loss through Movement, Dance

dance

On Nov. 5, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Joya Powell, in center, led a “collective mourning” at the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio to honor those who passed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day. Keep smiling through just like you always do ‘til the blue skies drive the dark clouds away.”

These lyrics, sung by Vera Lynn in the 1939 song “We’ll Meet Again,” are especially moving for Donna Brewer, director of employee benefits at Wesleyan. They’d be even more meaningful for her uncle Jim, an avid maple syrup maker and World War II vet, who died of COVID-19 in May 2020.

“Uncle Jim passed away early on in the pandemic and at that time, we weren’t able to have a service and I didn’t have an opportunity to grieve with others,” she said.

But a “collective mourning” on Nov. 5 offered Brewer a place to grieve in a communal environment.

Led by Joya Powell, visiting assistant professor of dance, the collective mourning welcomed anyone from the campus community to honor those who have passed during the pandemic through movement and improvisational dance. The event took place in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio; 17 students and staff gathered to move and mourn.

In Nature, Oppenheim ’02 Outlines the Importance of Creating an Intergovernmental Panel on Pandemic Risk

Ben Oppenheim ’02 says the way pandemics unfold over time and their impacts "have everything to do with our individual choices, our politics, and our ability to cooperate to help protect each other."

Ben Oppenheim ’02 says the way pandemics unfold over time and their impacts “have everything to do with our individual choices, our politics, and our ability to cooperate to help protect each other.”

Political scientist Ben Oppenheim ’02 thinks it’s only a matter of time.

“There’s this idea circulating that pandemics are a ‘once in a century’ problem because the 1918 flu happened about a century before COVID-19. But that’s just a random quirk,” Oppenheim said. “The next one could be next week. Or next month.”

A College of Social Studies major at Wesleyan, Oppenheim is currently vice president of product, policy, and partnerships at Metabiota, a business providing data-driven insights to help organizations manage infectious disease risk. Through epidemiological modeling, Oppenheim and his colleagues are able to estimate the frequency and severity of pandemics like COVID-19, and the numbers, he said, “are worrisome.”

“The best evidence we have suggests that COVID is not a once in a century phenomenon, but more like a 30-year event. That doesn’t mean we’ll experience a pandemic like COVID every 30 years, but that every year we have roughly a 3% chance of a pandemic as deadly as this (or worse) occurring. Over the next 25 years, it’s about a 50% probability of experiencing a pandemic on this scale—basically a coin flip,” he said. “There is of course some uncertainty in that estimate, but the crucial thing is that it isn’t carved in stone.”

Timeline: Wesleyan Reflects on the COVID-19 Pandemic

For nearly a year and a half, the COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably affected our lives in varying magnitudes. In this timeline, we explore the evolution of the pandemic through Wesleyan’s lens via public health advisories, photographs, and news stories.

Jan. 22, 2020:  Wesleyan’s Medical Director Dr. Tom McLarney issues a public health advisory to the campus community. “As many of you know from news reports, there is a viral illness that has affected the Hubei Province (mainly in Wuhan) China,” he wrote. “This virus is a novel (new) strain of the Corona virus … At this time, there is no threat to the Wesleyan community but the University will be monitoring this and will keep the community apprised of any developments.” Read the post.

Feb. 2, 2020: In response to the World Health Organization announcing an outbreak of a novel coronavirus, or “COVID-19 (coronavirus disease of 2019)”, Wesleyan’s Chinese community (particularly students and parents) bands together to help their fellow citizens. The student-initiated group WesInAction raises more than $23,000, which is used to purchase medical equipment for hospitals in the pandemic’s epicenter in Hubei province, China. Read the story.

On Feb. 16, WesInAction delivered seven sets of oxygen concentrators and ventilators and 26,000 pairs of medical gloves to the First People’s Hospital of Xiaochang County and the People’s Hospital of Dawu County in Xiaogan, Hubei province.

On Feb. 16, WesInAction delivered seven sets of oxygen concentrators and ventilators and 26,000 pairs of medical gloves to the First People’s Hospital of Xiaochang County and the People’s Hospital of Dawu County in Xiaogan, Hubei province.

Share Your Wesleyan COVID-19 Experiences, Creative Works

postcard The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected the Wesleyan community in a myriad of ways from student life to research to the way we teach and learn. This spring, Wesleyan’s Special Collections & Archives, along with Academic Affairs, are hoping to build a historical record—and preserve for posterity—the stories, memories, messages, and creative works of the University’s students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

postcards

(Click to enlarge)

Postcards from a Pandemic
Wesleyan’s Special Collections & Archives has launched a “Postcards from a Pandemic” project, which aims to help future students and researchers understand what it was like to be a member of the Wesleyan community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Postcards are available outside Special Collections & Archives in Olin Library, although personal postcards also are accepted.

“Write a note and tell them about how life has changed, or how it has stayed the same. What you’ve struggled with, or where you’ve found joy. Or maybe something else altogether,” said University Archivist Amanda Nelson. “Your postcard will become a primary source account of this unprecedented moment, giving future generations a glimpse into life during a global pandemic.”

After writing a message, place it into the dropbox outside SC&A, deliver it to SC&A in person, or mail the postcard to Special Collections & Archives, 252 Church St., Middletown, CT 06459.

COVID-19 Community Reactions Digital Collection
Special Collections & Archives, in partnership with Academic Affairs, welcomes submissions to its ongoing COVID-19 Community Reactions Digital Collection. Here, members of the Wesleyan community can share a story, essay, poem, photograph, video, audio recording, scholarship insights, or other creative work.

“Throughout the pandemic, Wesleyan students and faculty have demonstrated a brave and tenacious commitment to their research and creative work,” said Nicole Stanton, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Some have refocused their research on COVID-19 itself, or have made new creative work in response to the pandemic. Others have carefully pivoted their scholarship in order to accomplish research in the face of new and complex challenges. We want to honor and celebrate the research and creative work in which you’ve engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Faculty and staff can upload their creative work via this Google Form. Students and alumni can upload content from this submission request.

“Our research and creative work keep our collective University life vibrant and healthy,” Stanton said. “Your work will be collected, preserved, and made available for future generations.”

Japanese Community Celebrates Spring with Cherry Blossom Festival

On April 17, Wesleyan’s Japanese community gathered outside the College of East Asian Studies to celebrate Ohanami, or “flower viewing.” In early spring, three sakura—or cherry blossom trees—are blooming near the Japanese Garden.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual gathering was restricted to current students studying Japanese and CEAS faculty members.

The cherry trees were donated in the mid-70s by Nobel Laureate Satoshi Omura, who received an honorary degree from Wesleyan in 1994.

“The cherry blossoms’ timing was perfect,” said event coordinator Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian Studies. “We had fallen cherry blossoms all over the ground, which made a beautiful cherry blossom carpet.”

Maruta said this year’s event was especially meaningful because it was canceled last year. Also, since Japanese classes are still taught online this semester, “some students and teachers finally met each other for the first time in person.”

Photos of the event are below:

cherry blossom

cherry blossom

CDC’s Cory ’91 Speaks on COVID-19 and Public Health

Janine Cory '91

Janine Cory ’91

(By Bill Holder ’75)

In this Q&A we speak with Janine Cory ’91, MPH, about COVID-19 myths, vaccinations and vaccine hesitancy, pediatric transmission, health literacy, and more. Cory is the Associate Director of Communications for the CDC COVID-19 Response, Vaccine Task Force.

For more information on Wesleyan’s efforts dealing with COVID-19, visit the Keep Wes Safe website.

Q: How did you first become interested in public health? Was there a particular experience, issue, or Wesleyan course that influenced you? What led you to focus on risk communication?

A: I was actually lucky enough to be accepted into a pilot program at Mt. Sinai Medical School in 1989 that accepted a few students from Wesleyan and a couple of other schools. The idea was to take non-traditional pre-med students (I was an anthropology-sociology major) and do clinical rotations and a laboratory rotation.

I was expecting to cut up worms or something in my lab rotation, but it was what I would now label as public health and epidemiology. I discovered I had a knack for survey design and analysis during that summer and realized that public health was the intersection of medicine and sociology that I had been looking for. Even at that point, the idea of risk communication and plain language really made sense. Some of the survey questions asked consumers “is the angle of your desk and chair between 18-24 degrees?” I re-wrote it based on what probably seems obvious to everyone reading this now—don’t assume that most people would know the exact angle of their chair. When you’re collecting data, you have to make sure it’s useable in a way that helps you move forward to answer real questions.

Q: Has the COVID-19 pandemic presented any unique challenges in risk communication? If so, how have you and your colleagues addressed those challenges?

A: One thing during this pandemic that is both a good and bad element is the prevalence of social media. There’s such an influx of information—and anyone can be an influencer in any direction. It can be hard to sort out what are genuine, science-based data, and what seemingly legitimate ‘facts’ are actually based on opinion or myth. The premise behind good risk communication is understanding that you have to acknowledge where people are at and really get the context of their concerns. If you don’t recognize where their sources of data are, or where their belief system lies, throwing data or ‘facts’ at someone doesn’t help you give them useful information to change their health behavior.

Wesleyan Experts Explore Benefits of Vaccination

vaccinations

On March 15, a panel of Wesleyan faculty and staff experts discussed the importance of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine during a campus-wide webinar titled “Why Get Vaccinated?”

Speakers included Dr. Thomas McLarney, medical director of Davison Health Center; Donald Oliver, Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; William Johnston, John E. Andrus Professor of History; and Frederick Cohan, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, professor of biology. Janice Naegele, Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, professor of biology, and Dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division moderated the discussion and welcomed questions from the audience.

Staff Work Behind the Scenes to Create a Successful COVID-19 Testing Operation

covid testing tent

Wesleyan’s COVID-19 testing facility opened Aug. 17, 2020, on Andrus Field. Testing operations continue today inside Beckham Hall.

Ninety-nine thousand and counting.

That’s how many times Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff have stuck, swiped, and swirled cotton swabs in their nasal cavities over the past seven months at the Wesleyan COVID-19 testing facility, with hopes for that negative result indicating no presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA.

“Implementing an effective testing program was essential to returning for in-person learning,” said Associate Vice President/Dean of Students Rick Culliton, who spearheads Wesleyan’s Curricular Contingency Planning Task Force (CCPTF). “Our number one priority is keeping the campus community safe. Having accurate, timely test results has been critical to identifying and containing any cases of COVID-19 on campus.”

And this is why Wesleyan’s ad hoc testing site, currently set up in Beckham Hall, is so crucial for the University during the pandemic. Students are still required to test twice per week, and employees once per week.

But establishing such a facility wasn’t in anyone’s job description or workplace experience. It required a dedicated team of Wesleyan staff to step outside their traditional roles and develop what is now among the most important operations on campus.

Assembling an Effective Site

On July 14, 2020, members of the newly-formed CCPTF began murmuring about the need for mass testing on campus if Wesleyan was to open with in-person learning in the fall. Andy Tanaka, senior vice president, chief administrative officer and treasurer, appointed three staff members to plan the operations and assist with staffing: Joyce Walter, director of the University Health Center; Lisa Brommer, associate vice president for Human Resources; and Joyce Topshe, associate vice president for Facilities.

Students Return to Campus for Spring Semester (with Photo Gallery)

Wesleyan’s 2021 spring semester officially began Tuesday, Feb. 9, with 2,148 students residing on campus.

During the arrival period, held Feb. 5–8, approximately 1,950 students returned to campus after the winter recess. All students were required to prepare for a safe return, which included testing and quarantining before arrival. Once on campus, students must wear masks at all times in shared spaces and practice social distancing.

Volunteers from Wesleyan’s Campus-Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT) assisted with welcoming students to campus, checking them in, and ensuring they had a COVID-19 test within five days of arriving on campus. (See photos here.)

All students were immediately tested for COVID-19 prior to receiving a key to their student residence. Three students tested positive for the virus, and are being quarantined off-campus.

Classes began virtually on Feb. 9, while students are in the initial quarantine. Classes scheduled to be delivered in-person or through a hybrid approach are expected to switch to that modality on Feb. 22, after the quarantine lifts.

For COVID-19-related resources, visit the Keep Wes Safe website.

Photos of the spring arrival period are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

arrival day spring 2021

arrival day spring 2021

From Global Pandemic to Anti-Racism: Wesleyan’s Year in Review

The year 2020 will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most memorable of the modern era. From the threat and real-life toll of a global pandemic to domestic clashes over social, racial, and political injustice, 2020 was full of challenges—and the Wesleyan community met each one head-on. We banded together to keep our students and staff safe and pushed each other to show our resilience, to step up and speak out, and to use our trademark creativity to adapt and lead the way in addressing our new socially distanced and politically charged reality.

In this timeline, we look back and explore some of the University’s accomplishments and happenings amid an evolving pandemic.

Jan. 21: The Jewett Center for Community Partnerships announces the grantees of the JCCP Student Innovation Fund. Students from a range of majors and backgrounds—all with shared interests in utilizing resources in innovative ways to positively impact the greater Middletown community—applied to this fund. Read the story.

Feb. 2: In response to the World Health Organization announcing an outbreak of a novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, Wesleyan’s Chinese community (particularly students and parents) bands together to help their fellow citizens. The student-initiated group WesInAction raises more than $23,000, which is used to purchase medical equipment for hospitals in the pandemic’s epicenter in Hubei province, China. Read the story.

On Feb. 16, WesInAction delivered seven sets of oxygen concentrators and ventilators and 26,000 pairs of medical gloves to the First People’s Hospital of Xiaochang County and the People’s Hospital of Dawu County in Xiaogan, Hubei province.

On Feb. 16, WesInAction delivered seven sets of oxygen concentrators and ventilators and 26,000 pairs of medical gloves to the First People’s Hospital of Xiaochang County and the People’s Hospital of Dawu County in Xiaogan, Hubei province.