Lingering Effects of COVID-19 Diminish on Campus 

Over three and a half years after the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S., Loyola’s Wellness Center is remaining cautious in order to prevent the re-emergence of the virus and keep students and staff healthy.

Over three and a half years after the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S., Loyola’s Wellness Center is remaining cautious in order to prevent the re-emergence of the virus and keep students and staff healthy. 

Joan Holden, the assistant vice president of health and wellness and the director of the Wellness Center, said Loyola has changed its everyday procedures since the start of the pandemic. 

Holden said Wellness Center workers routinely wear masks and ask patients if they have experienced COVID-19 symptoms, have been exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19 or have a history of contracting the virus.

Since the improved accessibility of at-home tests has made it impossible to count all positive cases, neither the Wellness Center nor the city of Chicago continues to track COVID-19 cases, according to Holden.

The Chicago Department of Public Health tracks COVID-19 cases when a person who is positive receives medical attention. The city recommends Chicagoans follow COVID-19 hospital admission levels to make pandemic-related decisions such as choosing to wear or not wear a mask or travel, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health

Sarah Atwell, who graduated from Loyola in May, said the COVID-19 pandemic changed her college experience and greatly impacted the culture of the school and the city of Chicago. Atwell said the pandemic shut down many campus events and resulted in her returning home for the remainder of her first year at Loyola in 2020.

Atwell said Loyola didn’t allow students to live in dorms during the fall of 2020 semester since all classes were held virtually. Because Atwell worked at Halas Recreation Center, she said she chose to rent an apartment where she could attend her virtual classes while still living near Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus.

“Living on campus was the only thing that kept me sane,” Atwell said. “It made me feel more part of the community.”

Through her third and fourth years, Atwell said classes felt strange with students and faculty constantly wearing masks, with many of her classes never returning to their original in-person structure. 

Miles Adams, a fifth year student at Loyola, said he remembers campus feeling strange since many communal spaces such as the Information Commons, dining halls and Halas Recreation Center enforced social distancing and mask wearing.

“It was like a ghost town, you know, like the cowboy ghost towns,” Adams said. 

Adams said he didn’t realize how different campus was throughout the pandemic until Loyola began to reopen and eliminate COVID-19 procedures which minimized the amount of social events on campus.

“Since not as many people were here, I just didn’t get to see as much diversity as I get to see now,” Adams said.

Rya Valsidia, a fourth year student at Loyola, said campus felt very calm and quiet her first year at Loyola in the 2020-21 academic year since all classes were held virtually. 

“I didn’t really know what campus was like before, so I couldn’t, like, compare it to how it would normally be,” Valsidia said. 

Valsidia said she prefers the hybrid, both online and in-person, class structure introduced as a result of the pandemic and the subsequent need for social distance and isolation. She said she thinks the hybrid structure helped many students who were ill with COVID-19 or wanted to avoid contracting the virus. 

The Wellness Center now encourages students who test positive to complete five days in isolation, which can be done in Loyola residence halls if it isn’t possible for a student to find a suitable off-campus isolation location, according to Holden. Holden said if a student still has COVID-19 symptoms after five days, they should continue to isolate until the symptoms are gone.

Laney Samuelson, the associate director for Medical Services at Loyola, wrote in an email to The Phoenix that the Wellness Center encourages students to wear a mask for 10 more days following the isolation period, in accordance with the CDC.

If a student who has tested positive for COVID-19 shares a living space with a roommate, suitemate or housemate, the Wellness Center encourages both roommates to avoid touching each other’s hand towels, food containers or counter space, according to Samuelson.

Samuelson said if a student is uncomfortable sharing a space with a roommate who has tested positive for COVID-19, they should reach out to their resident assistant or resident director to discuss other options. The Wellness Center doesn’t have a role in housing, according to Samuelson.

If one or both roommates test positive for COVID-19, Samuelson said she recommends both roommates disinfect frequently touched places like tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, faucet and cabinet handles, smartphones, laptops and remote controls.

Using a fan and moving beds to maintain social distance can also be beneficial in stopping the spread of the virus from one roommate to another, according to Samuelson.

While the roommate who doesn’t have COVID-19 may still go about their normal daily activities, Samuelson said the Wellness Center encourages them to wear a mask until 10 days after their COVID-19 roommate’s isolation has ended. 

The Wellness Center also encourages the well roommate to minimize the amount of time spent in their room while the COVID-19 roommate isolates. 

Following COVID-19 exposure, Samuelson said to avoid travel, immunocompromised people and public places where the removal of a mask is necessary such as restaurants or gyms. 

Holden said Pfizer, one of the COVID-19 vaccination options, has allocated the Loyola Wellness Center as a distributor of COVID-19 vaccinations, which she hopes will become available for students and staff next semester. 

The winter season won’t change how the Wellness Center handles the virus, according to Holden. 

The respiratory viruses that cause COVID-19 and the flu tend to spread more commonly during the fall and winter seasons, according to the CDC.  

“I anticipate that we will be able to manage it just like we did last year,” Holden said. “We encourage everyone to get their COVID booster and to get their flu shot.”

This article was written by Julia Pentasuglio

Featured image by Daphne Kraushaar / The Phoenix

Julia Pentasuglio

Julia Pentasuglio