May 20, 2020: Public Health Update

From: Tom McLarney, MD

Subject: Public Health Update

Date: May 20, 2020

To the Wesleyan Community,

Ask any driver about what irritates them, and you are likely to hear about other drivers who drive too slowly, and those who drive too fast. These tend to be subjective observations, but speed limits do give us objective guidance as to the appropriate speed of travel.

Unfortunately, there are no posted speed limits or minimum speeds listed for reopening a state. This week in Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont has announced a phased-in reopening beginning today, May 20. I would like to discuss this from a public health perspective.

As some offices, retail businesses, restaurants, and other establishments begin to re-open, my take-home message to you all is: proceed with caution. If at all possible, continue to stay home. I urge continued self-isolation even more strongly for anyone over 65 years of age, or those who have medical conditions that place them at high risk.

At Wesleyan, the majority of faculty and staff will continue to work from home for the time being. In his announcement, Governor Lamont has permitted university research labs to reopen. As with the other sectors, this is not a mandate to reopen. Wesleyan is making plans for faculty and staff to return to work including reopening research labs in accordance with state guidelines, and detailed information is forthcoming.

On its website, the state has posted rules for each sector of the economy on reopening. General guidelines for all sectors include:

  • Promote social distancing by placing tables, chairs, etc. 6 feet or more apart.
  • Many facilities will have a 50 percent capacity limit, and no waiting areas.
  • When applicable to the business, service by appointment only.
  • Employees and patrons will be required to wear face coverings (which may be removed if eating or drinking).
  • Employees will be required to stay home when ill.
  • Staggered shifts for employees.
  • Employees should work at home if possible.
  • Touch-free appliances (soap and paper towel dispensers, automatic doors, etc.).
  • Meticulous sanitizing between customers/patrons.
  • Businesses to log employee shifts and whereabouts to help with contact tracing, if needed.

It’s important to remember that even if a business is complying with all the reopening recommendations, there is no guarantee of how safe it is to visit. It may be prudent to wait two or three weeks before going to a shop or restaurant, for example, to see if there is a spike in Covid-19 cases after the reopening. If there is, then we would suspect safety measures aren’t working.

If you do go out, do your best to maintain a 6-foot distance (imagine an inflated inner tube around your waist), don’t touch your face, and try not to touch things such as paper towel dispensers, sinks, door handles, etc. Take the stairs rather than the elevator, when possible, and never enter a crowded elevator. In a business setting, don’t use any shared equipment (phones, keyboards, etc.) when possible, or at least disinfect between users. Follow the instructions on the state’s website, follow your gut, and err on the side of caution.

From a public health perspective, it is anticipated that any re-opening in our state will result in an increase of Covid-19 cases. These need to be kept at a minimum and preparations must be in place to address increased cases. Once again, I urge you to proceed with caution and to consider staying home if at all possible, especially if you have added risk factors.

In closing, I wish you all health and safety. We are all suffering from “pandemic fatigue,” but try to embrace the positives, such as more time with family and the beautiful spring weather. I also want to congratulate all the members of the Class of 2020.  As you wrap up your time at Wesleyan, you deserve extra recognition for your strength, flexibility, and resilience these past few months.  Best wishes for success in your future endeavors!

Tom McLarney, MD