July 1, 2020: Public Health Update

From: Tom McLarney, MD

Date: July 1, 2020

Subject: Public Health Update

To the Wesleyan community,

Happy summer! The weather in Connecticut has been sunny and warm (some might say too hot!), and I am happy to report that cases of Covid-19 have continued to decrease in our state thanks to people generally following the rules. This is critically important as the University prepares to reactivate campus with the well-being, health and safety of our community top of mind.

We will share much more information on the safety measures the University is planning in a campus update next week. As previously indicated, these measures will include testing, monitoring and contact tracing, as well as the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), indoor air quality and disinfection protocols, all in adherence to state and federal health guidelines. We will also be strictly limiting and documenting visitors to campus, and notifying the campus community of any confirmed cases or community members who may have been exposed to Covid.

While these measures will be critical for maintaining the safest possible campus environment, it is equally important that all community members individually do their part. Analogy time: Think about a football player gearing up for a game. They would be most prepared and protected if they wear their knee pads, thigh protectors, shoulder pads, and helmet. However, if they omit any one of those, the risk of injury increases. The same is true with Covid-19. The more safety measures that are practiced, the better the chances are to keep oneself and one’s community safe from Covid-19.  Face covers, 6-foot distancing, avoiding groups, hand washing, disinfecting, monitoring symptoms, and staying home if you have symptoms. I want to note, in particular, that scientific evidence has demonstrated that masks do make a significant difference in preventing the spread of Covid. I have always been impressed by the level of care and compassion shown by members of the Wesleyan community. Please remember that these measures are necessary to protect not only yourself, but all students, faculty, and staff.

Recent news stories drive home what happens when individuals do not follow public health guidance for the common good. Last week, The New York Times reported that younger people—those in their 20s, 30s, and 40s—account for a “disturbing” number of new cases recently. We’ve all seen images in the news of people sitting inside shoulder-to-shoulder, not wearing face coverings in very large groups. I understand and empathize with those who are tired of the restrictions, or who feel that, as young and healthy individuals, they are less likely to become dangerously ill. However, these young people have older family members who may have baseline medical issues that put them at great risk (including death) if they contract Covid-19.  We are also seeing that young people are not immune from very serious complications, including higher rates of heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots to the lungs. Recently, there have been reports of young adults developing pulmonary emboli or clots to the lungs, as well as cases of people suffering from severe fatigue, months after a Covid-19 infection. According to The Washington Post, CDC figures now show younger patients make up a widening percentage of total coronavirus hospitalizations—35 percent today compared to about 27 percent in the week ending March 7.

August and the start of school are just around the corner. It’s likely that there will be neither a vaccine nor a preventative treatment available at that time. Success depends on all community members doing their part by adhering to the safety measures I’ve discussed here.

Stay well and be safe. Until then, I remain respectfully yours,

Tom McLarney, MD