By Jessica Hernandez Blanco
The Coronavirus has spread all over the world, making millions of people sick and killing thousands. People all over the world have been forced to change their lifestyles.
Despite these changes, death tolls are rising, and many are not surviving the disease.
Barry University has felt the effects of COVID-19, as a commuter student was recently reported to have contracted the disease after virtual learning began.
It seems the situation became threatening to the United States in the blink of an eye. When did this happen and how could it impact life as Floridians know it?
The Buccaneer has been tracking the progression of COVID-19 since February. At that point, Eileen Egan-Hineline, the director of Barry’s health services center, urged the community to practice good health habits to prevent infection.
In March, the virus escalated to a dangerous pandemic. The Buccaneer spoke with Egan-Hineline about how Barry has handled the outbreak and what policies she recommends students to follow.
Jessica Hernandez: At the end of February, there were no reports of COVID-19 in Florida. Now, a month later, the outbreak has led to the closure of many universities, including Barry. How did administrators make the decision to close Barry?
Ms. Egan-Hineline: To start, I want to clarify that Barry is not closed. The University is operating remotely, and services are working remotely. We are open and here for our students.
[In February], the Coronavirus disease (COVID -19) was at epidemic proportions in Wuhan, China and there were travel related cases in small numbers being reported around the world.
It is shocking that within a month’s time, COVID-19 is now a pandemic, prevalent over the whole world.
We [now] know far more about this virus than we did in January and February. We know it is an equal opportunity virus.
It has a greater death rate in our senior population, but 38 percent of the reported cases are between 18-54 years old. This age group generally has a stronger immunity and has been able to recover for the most part.
[Further], we have had reports of children as young as a few months old contracting the virus.
The Center for Diseases and Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been updating information as it becomes available. For instance, symptoms of COVID-19 were thought to only be fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Now, the WHO has released that symptoms can include headache, diarrhea, and sinus congestion. An individual does not necessarily need to have a fever. There are also people who have the virus but do not have any symptoms.
The above is one of the many reasons public health authorities are urging social distancing and why Barry University took the action we did to temporarily transition to remote operations.
The idea is to mitigate the risk of the disease by reducing the ability for the virus to spread. If the virus can’t spread, it will die. [Therefore], everyone has been asked to stay home.
Jessica Hernandez: How can students still on campus access the health services office?
Ms. Egan-Hineline: We have converted to Telehealth Services. Students can call SHS at 305-899-3750. Calls will be directed to the nursing staff in SHS to do assessments telephonically. Our provider, Dr. Lundy, can prescribe within the state of Florida if needed.
If students are insured by the student sponsored health insurance plan through United Health Care Student Resources, they can use their health benefits nationwide. UHCSR has suspended the need for off-site referrals until end of the spring semester.
Email Student Health Services at the firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Jessica Hernandez: What do you recommend to the students at home?
Ms. Egan-Hineline: Stay home and social distance. Complete your coursework remotely.
Public health officials stress that young people are key to stopping the spread of this virus. It is incumbent upon all of us to do our part.
Jessica Hernandez: What will be the criteria to re-open Barry?
Ms. Egan-Hineline: University leadership will continue to monitor the situation closely and make decisions regarding the resumption of face-to-face instruction informed by guidance from federal, state and local authorities, including the Florida Department of Health and the CDC.
As President Allen said in his recent message to the community, “We are committed to providing the highest quality teaching and support to our students during this time, while remaining vigilant and deeply concerned about the health and safety of those in our communities.”