COVID-19 and SIUE

While the pandemic isn’t over yet, with restrictions lightening, SIUE’s public health experts look back on the last few years’ impact on SIUE.

Public Health Response Coordinator Michael Schultz said that the information used to make decisions was information received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Illinois Department of Public Health, as well as governor directives.

“Like everybody else, it was a moving target throughout the pandemic. There was a team that met weekly, at least weekly, sometimes two or three times a week, to manage the pandemic,” Schultz said.

Riane Greenwalt, director of Health Service, said that Health Service was used to being in close contact with public health units, such as Illinois Department of Public Health and Madison County Public Health before the pandemic.

“In January, when we were aware that there was a coronavirus starting to impact internationally, we sort of rallied the troops around and said ‘We need to meet as an emergency management program to address the issue for the university,’” Greenwalt said.

Schultz said that he’s not sure COVID will ever get to the point where SIUE will close again.

“Because of the amount of people that are vaccinated now, and the precautions that are built up and the amount of people that have already had COVID,” Schultz said. “I don’t know that we would ever get to that point where we need to close down.”

Schultz also said that if any mitigation would need to kick in, SIUE may need to go back to fully masking on campus.

“That would be the first mitigation that would need to happen, but at this point I don’t see the numbers for that to happen, and looking at the area, we’re not there either,” Schultz said.

Greenwalt said she hoped everyone thought SIUE handled the COVID-19 pandemic fairly well. Health Service was able to partner with the rest of the university to give guidance.

“[Schultz] was a tremendous help trying to get us our statistics,” Greenwalt said. “I think that we were able to at least give enough safety information and try to keep the university as healthy as possible; obviously we recognize many people did contract COVID, but as far as having a negative outcome, I think we did pretty well.”

Schultz said that SIUE did an “alright” job handling the pandemic.

“I don’t know that anybody can say they did an exemplary job because of the changing targets that we had to always chase,” Schultz said.

Greenwalt noted a difference between public health and medical health, describing them as partners that don’t impact each other as much as one would think. Public health generally refers to the collective health of a population, whereas medical health denotes a case by case basis.

Schultz affirmed the right of individuals to still wear a mask, and said those who do should not be questioned on it.

“I don’t think a judgment should be made on anybody that wears a mask,” Schultz said. “I think they’re doing that not only to protect themselves but to protect others. I think that’s something we learned through the pandemic and will hopefully continue. The science still says to stay up on your vaccinations and I would encourage people to do that."

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