COVID Transport Team
Students who live on campus and test positive for COVID-19, or who have been exposed to COVID-19, spend their quarantine and isolation periods in the residence halls on the Ridge.
But first, they meet the COVID Transport Team, a volunteer team of custodial staff members who gear up in PPE and move the student and their belongings up onto the hill.
The team members meet the students at their door, give them an N-95 mask, and escort them down to the van while carrying their belongings. “The first time I had to do this, I kind of felt like the grim reaper,” says Rylan Hislop, 24, who has carried a few televisions and computer monitors while wearing head-to-toe PPE. “A lot of people were staring. Then it got normalized enough, now people just see us and scoot by.”
Jeff Osthimer says he and other members of the COVID Transport Team know it’s stressful for students to be escorted out of their homes by men in white Tyvek suits and face shields. “We take it seriously, but we keep it light,” Osthimer says. “We try to make them feel comfortable.”
The COVID Transport Team, which also includes Assistant Director Wayne Galloway and Warehouse Operator Maafala Petaia, aren’t the only members of Western’s custodial crew taking on extra duties during the pandemic. Custodians throughout campus have been working to make sure high-touch surfaces are disinfected more often and rooms that have been occupied by people get a thorough cleaning—all while keeping socially distant to protect themselves.
During fall quarter, the transport team moved about 30 students to the Ridge. The highlight, they say, is bringing them back to their regular residence halls.
Student Health Center
In the days before Thanksgiving, Student Health Center nurses at Western’s COVID Testing Center in Fraser Hall saw over 3,000 students for COVID tests before the holiday break. Western required all students with an on-campus presence to get tested—and opened testing to off-campus student residents—to prevent students from unwittingly taking infections home to their families for the holidays.
By the end of fall quarter, the Student Health Center performed more than 13,700 tests, with only 38 positive results. The Health Center also stepped up its telehealth services and set up the Annex, a special clinic for students with COVID-like symptoms.
During fall quarter about 1,000 students lived on campus, where Residence Life staff had to get creative on social programming that built community on campus while maintaining safety protocols.
About 40 students, including a few from off-campus, spent about two weeks in quarantine or isolation in residence halls on the Ridge, where Residence Life staff worked to make sure students were welcomed, safe and connected to the rest of campus while they reduced the risk of outbreaks in the community.
Photos by Rhys Logan, '11