Communicating about COVID-19 can ease student stress

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As universities prepare for community spread of COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus, students must be kept in the loop so that they too can do their part in reducing the spread of the virus. 

Across Canada, a number of post-secondary schools have begun cementing contingencies to continue this semester’s learning if social distancing recommendations to combat COVID-19’s spread interrupt on-campus studies. Universities are planning for online video lectures, grading adjustments, and remote exams.

Earlier this week, Queen’s Principal Patrick Deane sent out a message to students via email about the university’s preparations for COVID-19. Among several other measures, the University has appointed Dr. David Walker, former dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, to act as Special Advisor on Planning and Preparation for COVID-19, and created a dedicated website to keep students updated on public health at Queen’s.

As much as we hope to finish the rest of the term uninterrupted, there’s a very real possibility that Queen’s and the greater Kingston community will be affected by COVID-19 before April exams roll around.

Queen’s proactive response to a potential campus outbreak isn’t premature. Schools should react efficiently to prepare for community spread so they’re not playing catch-up if a student or staff member tests positive for the virus, or if Public Health recommendations mean in-person learning must be suspended. 

With so many people using the same communal spaces, universities are a hotbed for the spread of viruses. The St. Patrick’s Day celebrations planned for this weekend and next week in Kingston will result in many students finding themselves packed in closely with peers, strangers, and visitors from out of town.

Keeping students apprised of what they can do to reduce COVID-19’s spread, what symptoms to look for, and what steps they should take if they suspect they may be infected is extremely important. Although the majority of the student demographic isn’t likely to have their health severely impacted if they do contract the virus, sharing health-related procedures helps to protect vulnerable people on campus and in the local community. 

Emailing students to keep them informed of available resources is a solid first step, but students deserve full transparency when it comes to Queen’s plans if a case of COVID-19 is confirmed on campus and in-person classes are cancelled.

It’s understandable that, with the remainder of this semester up in the air right now, this is a stressful time for the Queen’s community. 

However, as action plans to address academics and public health measures are developed, staying aware of those developing resources can help to relieve some student stress.

—Journal Editorial Board

 

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