Artist: Ana Paula Velez, MD, FACP, Internist and Infectious Disease Specialist
My first semester at Saint Bonaventure University, in the fall of 2019, was filled with what I expected:
My first semester at Saint Bonaventure University, in the fall of 2019, was filled with what I expected: students with sore throats, coughs, rashes, UTI’s, STI’s and some headaches/abdominal pain and anxiety. This fall, in the midst of a global pandemic, life couldn’t be more surreal at the Center for Student Wellness, where I am the sole physician and Medical Director for our small campus in rural, upstate NY. If someone had told me a year ago that making beds and stocking rooms with linens, towels, toilet paper and snacks would be part of my job duties as a physician in 2020, I would have laughed them right out of the room.
Our university is one of a handful of institutions of higher learning that made the bold decision to welcome ALL of our students back to campus, into their small two-per-room residential dormitories, for in-class instruction. Our students are wearing masks, socially distancing, and were required to submit negative COVID-19 PCR tests within 14 days of arriving on campus. I am beyond proud of these young men and women. They are so happy to be at school, eager to learn, and behaving like responsible young adults. They are demonstrating the sort of resilience rarely seen in “Generation Z.” Pandemic-associated adversity has been character-building for a group of young adults who have been raised to think they are invincible. They are demonstrating true humility and grace and have shifted their focus from self to community. Another pleasant unexpected consequence of this pandemic.
This year we’ve had to prepare not only for “routine” types of visits, we also needed a plan to detect and hopefully contain COVID-19, knowing full well that even the most benign cough, sniffle, upset stomach or fever has to be considered COVID-19 until proven otherwise. We made it through an entire week of classes without ANY positives (which is amazing because Western NY is currently considered a “hot spot” due to an outbreak at an Erie County processing plant). Housekeeping duties became part of our “opening plan” when we decided to renovate the wing down the hall to create a makeshift infirmary for sick and positive students. We prepared our empty rooms for any potential “SUI’s” (Students Under Investigation) for COVID-19. We have been hosting students from hot spots and international locations who were unable to quarantine in New York for 14 days prior to arrival on campus, and it has been good “dry run” practice for me in Hospitality Management as we await students to start presenting with symptoms. I am reminded of an oldie but goodie, the song Hotel California, by the Eagles. Except in my head it goes like this -
Welcome to the Hotel COVID-fornia
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel COVID-fornia
Any time of year (any time of year)
You can find it here
This semester I am ready, and every day that goes by that we are able to allow in-person education is a blessing. We hope to make it through until the Thanksgiving holiday, but will be pleasantly surprised and blessed if we make it another week. Governor Cuomo orders require a 2 week suspension of in-person classes if 5% of the student population or 100 test positive.
One day at a time.