College prepares accommodations for students in event of COVID-19 cases on campus

Kevin Yang

As students who remain on campus transition into a residential life that is drastically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the College has prepared for the possibility of a student contracting the virus while on campus. 

Students who develop a fever, dry cough or shortness of breath have been instructed to call the Health Center immediately for an assessment of their condition. They will be asked to self-isolate, will have food delivered to their rooms and will be monitored with daily phone calls from a medical professional, according to an email sent to students remaining on campus by Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom. If the criteria are met, the College will arrange for testing. These services are available to both students currently residing in College housing and off-campus students who were previously approved to access College resources after the petition process. 

Several residential halls have also been prepared to house students who test positive for the coronavirus. The type of medical care that will be arranged for students in the isolated residential halls will depend on the individual’s specific situation, according to Director of Medical Services Deborah Flynn. “Either an RN [registered nurse] or a provider from the Health Center will be in phone contact with the ill student daily,” Flynn said in an email to the Record. “The frequency of calls during the day will depend on how the student is doing.”

For students who test positive for the coronavirus but show mild symptoms, support will primarily consist of these phone calls and daily food deliveries. Further medical care will be arranged by the College for those who need additional evaluation. “Different approaches include via video; a face-to-face evaluation by an equipped medical provider; or, if necessary, transportation to an ER,” Flynn said. “Our staff have extremely limited access to personal protective equipment, so we’d be relying on a local medical provider for any face-to-face assessments.” 

With the Health Center staff’s limited access to personal protective equipment, any face-to-face assessments will be handled by regional healthcare professionals, most directly with Williamstown Medical Associates, according to Flynn.

With the number of cases of COVID-19 in Berkshire County increasing to 171 as of March 31, and several cases having been reported in Williamstown Commons nursing home, Flynn also emphasized the interdependent relationship between the College and the regional healthcare system the campus community relies on. “What happens at the College affects the system,” Flynn said, “and, in much the same way, any other events like the expanding number of cases at Williamstown Commons have the potential to impact us as well.” 

The Health Center is continuing to accept phone calls Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. from students seeking medical assistance. However, in-person appointments have become the exception, and “most patients will be managed remotely,” according to the email sent to students remaining on campus.