(opinions) Schiffert Health Center

The signage above the automatic sliding doors of McComas Hall at the entrance to Schiffert Health Center, Oct. 3, 2016. Students can go to Schiffert Health Center for medical attention including treatment of the flu. 

Across the country, colleges and universities have been working quickly in adapting to COVID-19 after it hit the U.S. in January. Since President Tim Sands announced that Virginia Tech students would be returning back to campus in the fall, the faculty and staff have been working tirelessly to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible.

With the first semester over halfway through, Virginia Tech officials have had time to reflect and improve upon the systems that were put in place at the start of the academic year.

While the support system for students in isolation and quarantine has always existed, it became clear that, as case numbers rose, more action would need to be taken in making the process as seamless as possible.

“Feedback from students about their experiences helped us in creating new methods to assist students while they resided in isolation or quarantine housing,” said Dean of Students Byron Hughes. “What we learned in the early weeks was that we needed to expand beyond what we initially envisioned for helping students.”

One response to a former lacking connection between sick or exposed students to the rest of the university was the creation of “TechCares,” a team devoted to increasing communication between students and staff. Along with this new addition, some students were selected to collaborate with Housing and Residence Life in becoming “isolation assistants.” Those who were given this title are able to deliver essential items to students in isolation and quarantine, along with calling and communicating with them safely.

“We understand that quarantine and isolation can be daunting, which is why we want to improve the mental, physical and physiological care that students receive when separated from their peers,” said Senior Associate Dean of Students Anthony Scott. “That’s really the foundation of TechCares and isolation assistants — making students feel supported.”

Another way that Virginia Tech has expanded its mental health resources for students in isolation and quarantine was through the Highty-Tighties and Marching Virginians entertaining students by playing music. One of the bigger areas of support, however, was the ability for volunteers to assist some quarantined students in thoroughly managed time outdoors.

With all of the new developments that Tech’s support system for isolated students has undergone, the wave of feedback from both students and parents has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The last time colleges and universities were impacted by a pandemic of this nature was nearly a century ago,” Hughes said. “I am simply grateful for the number of people within the Virginia Tech community that care about this and want students to experience comfort through an uncomfortable experience.”

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