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Olivet Puts Measures in Place to Protect Student Health

In the age of the COVID-19 global pandemic, seeing people wearing masks and socially distancing has become a cultural norm — Olivet is no exception. Signs posted on buildings remind students that masks must be worn. Stickers placed on the floor promote staying six feet apart. New class structures allow students to safely participate in classes in person.

Since April, teams have worked on finding ways to allow students back on campus. They continue to meet on a daily or weekly basis to make sure things continue to run smoothly, now that school is in session.

These virus-containing measures include contract tracing, hybrid and online classes, and reserving housing on campus for students who contract the coronavirus. Additional seating has been scattered around campus, and tents have been set up to encourage students to grab their food from Ludwig and take it outside.

The buildings on campus have protective measures set up as well. The HVAC systems in every building have been set to an increased air exchange rate, giving buildings cleaner, fresher air. Each classroom has been equipped with sanitizers to wipe down tables and keep hands clean.

While some mitigation measures are easily seen, others are less obvious. “There are a lot of little things, just small changes in campus culture.” says chair of the biology department, Dr. Daniel Sharda.

Ollie’s Follies has been put on hold and replaced with Nights at the Plex. This gives students a way to have fun while staying safe. While these nightly events take place outside, students are still required to wear masks and social distance.

“I feel like it’s healthy for our student body...to be active and interact and get to know each other,” says Olivet Family and Nurse Practitioner Mary Schweight, “and do it in the best and safest way possible, which is outdoors.”

These events also encourage students to stay on campus.

With students converging from across the country, some might wonder how this will affect the community. Kankakee County is one of two counties in Illinois that have reintroduced strict mitigation policies due to a rise in positive cases.

Kandra Hewett, a local with experience in the medical field, doesn’t believe this congregation of students will impact the county’s cases. She believes the virus has mutated some, leading to a less severe illness that was initially seen at the beginning of the pandemic.

“I don’t think it’s going to be any different just because students are here,” she says.

If students are honest and follow the rules, Hewett believes the semester will continue to be in-person.

In the case of a large outbreak on campus, students will be advised to stay on campus, as recent publications are suggesting that students should stay at college to avoid bringing the virus home to their vulnerable family members, Dr. Sharda explains.

Currently, most students showing symptoms of COVID-19 are tested off campus at a drive-through site. For those without a car, they can be swabbed on campus, but this “adds a layer of complexity to it,” Schweigert explains. “We just can’t do the actual testing on campus.”

If a student does have the virus, they can choose to isolate at home or on campus. Students who decide to isolate on campus will be sent to Howe; if that’s full, the first floor of Nesbitt will be used as well.

When a student is in isolation, nurses call daily to check-in and make sure the student’s vitals are okay, while their RA makes sure they’re doing well spiritually and mentally. Each student is given a care package and meals are delivered straight to their door.

If a student begins to experience symptoms or think they’ve been exposed, they are to call Health Services at 815-939-5256.

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