As a senior, this is Allison Kim’s fourth year living on campus. She’s been a residential assistant for Armstrong Commons for two years. Despite this connection, she said that she expects the biggest changes on campus to be felt in the social aspect and community building.
“I think we at SMU are used to getting to know our classmates and the people we share living spaces with, but this year, that will look different and as RA’s we have already started planning for what that will look like,” Kim said. “Our goal is to still build relationships and create community but in smaller groups that are socially distanced and individually as well.”
Likewise, back to school shopping will look drastically different as students stock up on PP&E for their own personal living spaces.
“This year, different from prior years, I am bringing many cloth masks and pocket-sized hand sanitizers. I also brought the usual Clorox wipes and Vitamin C gummies to boost my immune system,” Kim said. “My plan is to wipe down my desk area more frequently as well as my door handles and other surfaces I come into contact with frequently.”
As of August 21, 27 students who live off campus and 19 students who live on campus have tested positive for COVID-19 since re-opening to faculty June 1 and to students July 1.
To report a positive case to SMU, students must fill out the Caring Community Connections Form. These reports are used for contract tracing, where individuals who have tested positive will be interviewed confidentially to identify possible close contact interactions with other students and staff. However, as of July 9, SMU will no longer report location information for each individual case.
The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center provides screening interviews by trained medical staff for possible testing and referrals for treatment. The Health Center is open weekdays during business hours.
Additionally, students can seek COVID-19 tests from other local emergency clinics. Both Dr. Arie Marancenbaum, medical director at Trusted ER and SMU alum, and Dr. Harvey Castro, president and co-founder of Trusted Medical outlined how students can better prepare their immune systems this fall and the services that Trusted ER provides.
“If you are curious and just want to know if you have COVID, you can come anytime. It could be two in the morning and you just want to check. You can come and we can get results,” Harvey said.
Trusted ER is located on Hillcrest Avenue, a two-minute walk from campus, and it is open 24 hours every day. Trusted ER offers three different types of tests for COVID-19: antibody, antigen, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. The antigen test is the quickest, and results from the testing takes 15 to 20 minutes.
Dr. Castro said that students can build up their immune systems through sleeping well, eating healthy foods, and practicing good mental health.
“So I would encourage students to get good sleep hygiene, and what that means is: no phone at night. Make sure you are resting in your bed, that you are not studying in your bed,” Castro said. “When you go to bed, your body knows this is to go to sleep and not to study. You want to make an environment that is dedicated to sleep.”
Students can do a self-assessment every morning before going to class. Dr. Castro personally uses technology like Oura to track his temperature.
“As a young student, you don’t know your body very well or you feel like you are invincible. And it is true you can be sick and not really know you’re sick,” Castro said. “You might have a little temperature that is new, but you don’t know you have a little temperature.”
This fall, Dr. Castro’s son will be starting as a freshman on the men’s soccer team. He said that although students feel invincible since they are young and healthy, students need to be wary this coming semester of transmitting COVID-19 to immune compromised individuals.
Dr. Marancenbaum also said that relatively healthy individuals with conditions like diabetes and thyroid issues have shown more adverse symptoms to COVID-19.
“This weekend I saw someone who was 24 years old, and they had a thyroid problem and they have really bad COVID symptoms – bad pneumonia. And I had to hospitalize with antibiotics,” Dr. Marancenbaum said.
Both Dr. Castro and Dr. Marancenbaum said that they would encourage students to get a flu shot this fall as COVID-19 and the flu have similar symptoms.
“I think it will get worse because winter is coming,” Dr. Marancembaum said. “I don’t want to sound ‘Game of Throne-ish,’ but winter is coming and corona might get worst.”
Kim said that while she is eager to return to campus, it is the utmost importance that students follow the rules and follow them willingly to ensure that everyone is healthy and safe this school year.
“I think something that can motivate us to wear masks is that we don’t wear masks to protect ourselves, but rather to protect others,” Kim said.
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