On Friday, August 12, 2022, Whittier College issued an email to the student body detailing facts and a new protocol for the disease “Monkeypox”. In collaboration with Student Health and Wellness Center, new regulations will be in place if a student does happen to get the disease such as speaking to both their primary care provider and the health services provided by Whittier. Similarly, an email went out on Friday, August 19, 2022, discussing the COVID-19 protocol for the upcoming school year including masking, testing, and what to do if infected.
Monkeypox is a disease in the same family as smallpox. The World Health Organization (and subsequently the state of California) deemed the disease a public health emergency. In Los Angeles County, a total of 911 cases have been confirmed as of August 15, 2022. Monkeypox can be spread in a variety of ways. This includes “direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids, during activities like kissing, hugging, massaging, cuddling, and sex…through touching materials used by a person with monkeypox that hasn’t been cleaned, such as clothing and bedding…respiratory secretions during prolonged, close, face-to-face contact.” Monkeypox can be spread to ANYONE despite gender or sexuality.
Symptoms of MonkeyPox arise from contracting the disease are similar to the flu, including “fever, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and general body aches.” The difference is that a rash or sore may appear one to three days after the experience of flu-like symptoms. Vaccines against the disease are available, but only a small supply is limited to California. This means that only a selected group of individuals that meet the criteria can receive it. Los Angeles County Public Health states that the “Monkeypox vaccine is available to gay or bisexual men and transgender persons 18 years of age and older who… had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days including engaging in survival and/or transactional sex (e.g., sex in exchange for shelter, food, and other goods and needs)” or immunocompromised individuals.
Monkeypox can be prevented by taking the necessary precautions. This includes “Avoid contact with materials, like bedding, that have been in contact with a sick animal or person infected with this virus… Keep[ing] infected patients away from others…Wash[ing] hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after contact with infected animals or humans… Avoid[ing] contact with animals that could have the virus (such as animals that are sick or that have been found dead)… [and] wear[ing] a well-fitting mask or respirator if you have monkeypox or must interact with an infected individual.” But if a student has been exposed to the disease on campus, there are necessary steps one must take. Firstly, the individual should reach out to their primary care physician. Then, they must notify the Health Center via the Health Screening Form and/or make an appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.” The clinic’s hours of operation are Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. They are closed for lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. daily and closed for weekends. The individual may speak to someone either on weekends or after hours by calling the RN Telephone After-Hours Care line at 562.464.4548 and then pressing 1, or 858.456.9455.
The Whittier College Campus is preparing to prevent the spread of the disease entirely. The College states that they will “maintain cleaning and disinfection protocols and improved ventilation strategies adopted to prevent the spread of COVID-19”, along with “The Student Health & Wellness Center will guide students to the appropriate resources for monkeypox testing and treatment. Employees should consult their healthcare provider. Questions regarding sick leave and return to work policy should be directed to Human Resources.” And if isolation is required for a student that contracts Monkeypox the College states that “The Student Health and Wellness Center will work with residential students should isolation protocols be required. As with any illness, students should consult with their respective faculty on maintaining academic progress for prolonged absence from classes.” The College ends the email by stating “We understand that news of a new infectious disease on top of the last few years of the COVID-19 pandemic can be concerning and result in feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Campus mental health resources are available through the Counseling Center. Faculty and staff may seek support through the Employee Assistance Program, which can be accessed 24/7 at 1-800-854-1446 (English) or 1-800-858-2147 (Spanish).”
Alongside the concern about Monkeypox, precautionary measures for the continuing COVID-19 pandemic were emailed to the Whittier student body. In Los Angeles County, there are over 3,584 confirmed cases of COVID-19 due to the highly contagious variants circulating. The College stated that because of this, they will begin “the year with policies that exceed minimum requirements but which remain strongly recommended by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. College leadership and the COVID-19 Compliance Task Force will monitor case rates and look forward to adapting requirements when it is safe to do.”
Vaccinations (with at least one booster!) are required for all students, faculty, and staff. The College also “strongly encourage[s] individuals eligible for additional boosters to seek them.” Individuals that are exempt from receiving the vaccine; have not received any booster, or have not uploaded their vaccination card to the Student Health Portal are required to test each week starting on August 29, 2022. In regards to testing, the College stated that they are “evaluating new COVID-19 campus testing solutions for diagnostic testing.” The College is “focused on the groups at highest risk of infection, which included all residential students and athletes, both commuter and residential.” says COVID-19 Task Force member Lisa Newton. She states that “Similarly, the testing strategy for employees focused on those employees and contracted workers returning from summer break and/or travel. Staff who have been reporting regularly to campus and thus adhering to our regular prevention protocols are not required to submit negative test results.” The College is trying out new antigen testing. This will be provided for “students experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; close contacts of positive cases; and students required to test weekly because they are unvaccinated (exempt) or overdue for their booster dose.” Testing will be available starting on August 29, 2022, on Monday through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Club 88. This will be on a walk-in basis, but plan accordingly and allow thirty minutes beforehand to complete the sample collection. If the individual needs to test on an alternative day or time, they can schedule an appointment by calling the Student Health and Wellness Center at 562.464.4548.
Students can protect themselves from COVID-19 by doing daily tasks such as reporting on the daily health screening and masking. Students are required to fill out the COVID-19 Health Screening before moving in or arriving on campus. Students are also required to “self-report a diagnosis of COVID-19 within eight hours using the online screening form.” and to stay home or in their dormitory if they feel ill. Masking is mandatory indoors on campus. The only exceptions to this are when students are “alone in their dormitory rooms or employees are alone in private offices and when actively eating or drinking.” Students should refrain from eating in classrooms or shared office spaces. The College recommends well-fitting masks, such as medical-grade masks, respirators (KF94, KN95, N95), or double masking with a medical-grade mask and a cloth mask. If you would like more information about which masks are the best, you can read the article “The Quaker Campus Guide to Face Masks”. Masks are available at the Library or the Campus Inn (CI), and from department administrators, if you need one. Another way to protect oneself from COVID-19 is with personal hygiene. The College recommends washing your hands frequently; covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing; refraining from touching your eyes, mouth, and nose; and “refrain from sharing objects and materials to the extent practical”. Students can also stay safe by practicing physical distancing. In the email, the College states that “While capacity limits have been lifted and a physical distance of six feet is no longer required, efforts to reduce crowding remain encouraged.”
If a student does contract COVID-19, the College states that they “adhere to LA County Department of Public Health protocols for exposure management at Institutes of Higher Education. Students must be cleared for campus access by the Student Health & Wellness Center if symptomatic, COVID-positive, or exposed.” Individuals who are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 are “restricted from campus and required to self-isolate and test.” Any individual “who has had close contact with a positive case is required to follow Close Contact instructions and must seek COVID-19 testing 3-5 days from the last exposure.” Close Contact instructions include wearing a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days. Then get tested three to five days after exposure. If the test is positive, then one should isolate. But if one has tested for COVID-19 within the last 90 days, the individual does not need to test. Then finally, monitor your health for 10 days. If the symptoms seem to reappear, one should stay home and get tested. And finally, any individual that “test[s] positive for COVID-19 will be restricted from campus for at least 5 days and are required to follow Home Isolation instructions.” Home Isolation includes wearing a mask around others for 10 days after exposure. When a test is taken and it is positive, an individual must be isolated for five days. The individual may end isolation only if a COVID-19 test is taken and it is negative, and have no symptoms including no fever. If the individual has a positive test or is still experiencing symptoms, they will need to isolate for five more days. On the eleventh day, the isolation is over.
Activities on campus including indoor events, gatherings, and non-curricular activities are now permitted but must be approved in advance in accordance with the College’s Event Policy. The College states that “In order to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 and keep health and safety central for our campus community, Whittier College will limit and closely monitor all events, meetings, and activities that meet the conditions outlined in this policy.
We remain committed to supporting a rich and vibrant campus life while prioritizing safety. We are closely monitoring public health updates and will reconsider the event approval process when it is safe to do so.” These are subject to change in accordance with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
Whittier College ends the email by stating “As a community, our individual action— and inaction—impacts others. Adhering to these guidelines as we transition back to campus will help keep… you, your fellow students, teammates, and loved ones safe. A healthy start to the new academic year is our best assurance of easing COVID protocols and enjoying a vibrant and enriching campus life together.” If you have any questions regarding COVID-19 and its protocol on campus, you can email the COVID-19 Task Force at email@example.com
Featured Image: Sage Amdahl / Quaker Campus