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COVID-19: Flu season approaches on campus

Irene Rotondo
@irenerrotondo

A month has passed since the return of students to Springfield College classrooms and residence halls. After arrival, students were placed into two different rotation groups (A or B) and then personally chose a time for themselves to be tested for COVID-19 bi-weekly. Student-athletes, along with students with needs pertaining to their programs, are tested every week, instead of bi-weekly.

Springfield College seems to have the virus pretty much under control thus far. Just two cases have returned positive, and one of those cases never even stepped foot on campus other than the Health Center’s testing site.

Christine Johnston, Assistant Director of Alcohol and Other Drug Educations and Health Promotions, stated that students must keep up the good work and not become complacent. Even though there are just two positive cases, that statistic could change at any given time.

“Obviously things can change in the blink of an eye, so, so far so good, and everybody keep doing everything that you can so that we can stay here,” said Johnston.

“It’s really easy to get complacent, now that we’ve had several weeks of pretty much all negative tests, and so students, along with everyone, you know, they get tired of the rules, and we just want to be mindful that we have to keep those rules in place for the entire semester,” she added.

This past week also marked the beginning of fall and, along with it, the official start to the cold and flu season. Since there have been so few cases on campus, students may not immediately jump to the conclusion of “Coronavirus” when they start to feel sick, and may not even suspect it to be the virus at all according to their symptoms. However, everybody is on high alert these days, and the slightest cough in a room full of people could earn some glares.

Students are left wondering what they should do in the event that they feel sick, but don’t think that it’s COVID-19. Johnston suggested students should call the Health Center so both parties can make proper arrangements together.

“It’s hard to know, especially with a traditional college-aged student, what we’ve got,” said Johnston. “We’re going to get the traditional cold, strep throat, and all that kind of stuff. We’re encouraging all students, if they’re not feeling well, to stay in their room, if they do have to go out to be wearing their mask, and to call the Health Center.

“We’re here, we actually have seven-day-a-week hours now, for you to be medically evaluated by a provider. It may include an additional COVID test, it may include something like a test for strep throat, and the provider is asking you to stay in your room until those test results come back.”

Even though it will be cold and flu season, the flu risk will hopefully be minimized for Springfield College students. An email was sent on Sept. 18, telling students that a flu shot was required by Dec. 31, 2020 in order to be enrolled in the spring semester.

Many were confused as to why they were required to have the vaccination, while the faculty and administration were not, thinking the reasoning had to be linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Springfield College is actually not the proponent of the required flu vaccinations; on Aug. 18, 2020, Commonwealth of Massachusetts state officials announced that flu vaccines are now required for the 2020-2021 academic year for all students or children (six months of age or older) who attend Massachusetts child care, pre-school, kindergarten, K-12, and colleges and universities.

“It’s being encouraged for faculty and staff and many faculty and staff will take advantage of that, I certainly will, but we are actually following a Commonwealth guideline that says anyone enrolled in education needs to be getting their flu shot… that is brand-new, that came out this summer,” said Johnston.

“And honestly, we don’t know what’s going to happen if somebody gets the flu and COVID at the same time, that’s really doing a number on your immune system, so any way that we can stay healthy is a good way,” added Johnston.

Flu shots are being administered by the Health Center this week on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and time slots for those days have already been sent out by email. If students choose to receive their vaccination from an outside provider, the Health Center is requiring those who do so to mail, email, fax, or drop off their proof of immunization in person.

Photo Courtesy of Danny Priest

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