September 17, 2020: Public Health Update

Date: September 17, 2020

From: Tom McLarney, MD

Subject: Public Health Update

To our Wesleyan community,

Greetings. As we all settle into the routine of the fall semester, however unusual it may be, I would like to address a topic that affects us all: stress. Faculty, staff, and students alike, whether studying or working on-campus or remotely, are feeling the mental fatigue that accompanies this ongoing pandemic. Whether it is concern about our own health, the health of friends and family, or just coping with all the changes and inconveniences to daily life, we are all feeling it.

I want to mention two wonderful Wesleyan resources for students: Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (ORSL). Students on or off campus may schedule virtual conversations with chaplains in ORSL through the website. Though CAPS unfortunately cannot provide clinical services (such as individual and group therapy as well as crisis appointments) to students who are out-of-state, they can provide one-time consultation appointments with clinicians in order to assist remote students with identifying resources in their communities. CAPS is also providing its after-hours, on-call service and is holding educational workshops and other prevention and training events for all students, whether on or off campus.

Faculty and staff may contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at (800) 854-1446. The EAP offers eligible employees and certain family members with access to a licensed professional counselor who can assist with issues such as stress, depression and anxiety; grief and loss; and more. Online/phone support is unlimited, confidential, and available 24/7, while up to three visits with a licensed professional counselor are available at no additional cost.

Connecting with friends and engaging in social activities is another way to combat stress, and I encourage everyone to find safe, socially-distanced ways to do this. I’ve been heartened to see students, faculty, and staff socializing and dining together outside on campus. I understand that Student Activities and Leadership Development is working hard to plan safe activities, and have heard of a number of social gatherings done on Zoom. A terrific outdoor programming venue has been installed to host events like open mics and movie screenings. We’re counting on the creativity and energy of our students, faculty, and staff to keep campus life as vibrant as ever, and I’m confident they won’t disappoint. For those students who are learning virtually from home, I hope you too are finding ways to stay connected to campus life, whether by actively engaging in your classes, Zooming with your friends, or taking part in virtual events. We look forward to welcoming you back to Middletown when the time is right.

Despite the stresses, I think we all have a lot to be grateful for. I believe I speak for everyone when I say I am thrilled with the current status of COVID-19 at Wesleyan. Currently there is one active student cases on campus; in total, we have had three students and three employees test positive for COVID-19. (Another student case was later determined to be a false positive).

As you know from my prior advisories, the Pandemic Planning Committee led by Dean Rick Culliton has been busy since early spring planning for the fall semester re-opening, while all our staff and faculty have been hard at work to ensure a smooth start to the semester. While we had a great deal of confidence in this plan going into the fall, even the best laid plans aren’t worth much unless they are followed properly. I sincerely thank all of our students who have risen to the occasion of completing the two-week campus quarantine. You should all pat yourselves on the back numerous times a day. Keep following all the rules—especially wearing face covers, social distancing, and avoiding groups—and we should make it through the rest of the semester!

As I’m sure you’ve heard before, this is a marathon and not a sprint. Keep up the good work all. Wesleyan is standing tall!!

Tom McLarney, MD