From the Desk of the Dean of Students
November 4, 2009
Unless you have been living under a rock (on a deserted island without cable TV), you are aware that the H1N1 virus is alive and kicking in our world.
With so much information in the public sphere about the virus and its impact on people and programs, we thought it would be helpful to provide a snapshot of how the issue is being addressed at St. Olaf.
First, the health and welfare of our students is a primary concern for us. Yes, we teach chemistry and dance and economics — but we also are a residential community that pays close attention to the well-being of 3,000 young people. Because of that, we are monitoring the presence of H1N1 on campus, as well as staying in touch with local public health officials. Furthermore, we are following updates from professional organizations and government agencies tasked with coordinating a regional and national response.
We field a lot of requests for information and assistance. So far we have been able to handle the health needs of sick students and information requests from the community, parents, and faculty with existing college resources. Primary leadership for this comes from Marie Sampson, a nurse practitioner who serves as director of the college’s Health Services Office. The following are some of the main topics we have thus far addressed:
- On average, we are hearing about two to six new cases per day of students with flu-like illnesses. No students, to our knowledge, have been hospitalized overnight because of flu symptoms.
- Like the rest of the country, we do not know when we will have access to enough doses of the H1N1 vaccine to offer them to students. We have a vaccine provider, and they have not indicated when it will be available. When it is, we will make arrangements to offer it to students.
- We are communicating on a regular basis with students about prevention and self-care. This is generally a challenge in a residential community of 18–22 year olds, some of whom won’t wear a coat when the outside temperature is below zero. However, our Health Services staff members have remarked a number of times about how well students are handling this health issue and how well they are caring for themselves and others. Read the messages we have sent to students thus far.
- We have been able to carry forward our academic program without much disruption, and faculty have been very accommodating of students who are ill and absent from class.
- We continue to monitor the spread of the virus and are staying alert for a spike in cases or a turn in the severity of the illness in any student. So far we have been fortunate to not have any crisis related to the H1N1 virus, but we are aware that the situation could change quickly.
We have been very careful to proceed with plans that honestly meet the needs of students in a residential learning environment without being too dramatic or alarmist. This means trying to balance many voices and opinions, while keeping the health and welfare of students at the front of our minds.
We are hopeful that this illness does not visit your house or those you love. But if it does, please let us know how we can assist in supporting you.
Vice President and Dean of Students
St. Olaf College