Tag Archive for Keep Wes Safe

Students Continue to Wear Masks Indoors, Keep Wes Safe

As students settle into a fully-residential fall semester with more than 95 percent of the student body vaccinated for COVID-19, the University continues to mandate the wearing of masks inside all university buildings. Wearing masks outdoors is optional.

“Because of your hard work and diligence thus far, we have taken important steps towards creating a healthy campus environment,” said Wesleyan Medical Director Dr. Tom McLarney in a recent campus-wide health update. “We will continue to monitor our situation and adjust accordingly.”

View the latest updates and campus guidelines on Wesleyan’s Keep Wes Safe website.

Photos of student activities during the early fall semester are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

students

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.

Wesleyan to Require Students to be Vaccinated for the Fall 2021 Semester

keep wes safeNext fall, Wesleyan will require all students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine prior to returning to campus.

Every student (with the exception of those who have approved medical or religious exemptions) will need to verify with the University that they are fully vaccinated prior to their arrival.

For students who are currently studying on campus, Wesleyan, in partnership with the Community Health Center, is offering a Pfizer vaccine clinic on April 24 and 25 (first dose), and again on May 15 or 16 (second dose). Nearly 2,000 students have already registered for an appointment.

The University highly encourages faculty and staff to be vaccinated as soon as they are able.

For more updates and information, visit the Keep Wes Safe website.

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.

C-CERT Assists with Student Arrival Period

During the spring semester arrival period, Feb. 5–8, 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.

Members also shoveled snow to keep paths clear and delivered students’ suitcases, via an ATV, to their residences. Joe Fountain, director of athletic injury care, loaned the Athletics Department ATV to C-CERT for this purpose.

Wesleyan’s C-CERT group consists of staff, faculty, and student volunteers.

(Photos by Olivia Drake and Roseann Sillasen)

CERT

CERT

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

Wesleyan Prepares for Students’ Return to Campus This Spring

Between Feb. 5–8, Wesleyan will welcome the majority of students back to Middletown for the spring semester.

Students must follow a series of steps to prepare for a safe return to campus, which includes testing and quarantine before and upon arrival, and wearing masks at all times in shared spaces.

Faculty and staff are expected to follow the guidance of the Community Agreement and act in a manner that demonstrates respect and consideration for the health and safety of others.

keep wes safe“After a successful reactivation of campus last fall, we are confident that we’ll be able to offer a vital Wesleyan experience to students this spring while limiting the spread of COVID-19 on campus,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78. “We recognize that there is real anxiety about the pandemic, and we will continue to promote safety, care, and community. Those things will all go together in the service of education.”

Speaking at a Virtual All-Staff and Faculty Forum on Jan. 28, Roth and Dean of Students and Associate Vice President Rick Culliton, who chairs Wesleyan’s Pandemic Planning Committee, acknowledged that the current public health situation looks quite different compared to the start of the fall 2020 semester. COVID positivity rates, hospitalizations, and deaths are all at much higher levels now, and new variants of the virus create much uncertainty, while the rollout of several highly effective vaccines are providing glimmers of hope.

Culliton described minor differences between the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. As in the fall, anyone on campus must wear a face covering and practice social distancing. Visitors will continue to be restricted from campus, and students will be required to be tested for COVID-19 twice per week, and faculty and staff once or twice per week, depending on the nature of their jobs. Due to the critical role of testing in preventing the spread of COVID, this semester students who miss more than three tests will be immediately required to leave campus and study remotely for the rest of the semester. Quarantine of close contacts is reduced from 14 to 10 days per CDC guidelines, and Wesleyan may further restrict off-campus travel.

Classes will begin virtually on Tuesday, 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.

President Roth, who is teaching COL 228: Virtue and Vice in History, Literature, and Philosophy this spring, is choosing to hold classes in person.

“We’ll be in a huge room, spread out, and be wearing masks. It’s hard to teach that way because I can’t gauge student reactions very easily, but there’s a very strong desire to hold classes in person,” Roth said. “Our goal should be to offer our students the best experience given our current conditions so students can thrive.”

Additional information on returning to campus and health and safety protocols is posted on the University’s Keep Wes Safe website.