Reopening 101 | Health Services in the COVID-19 Era

Greg Kwasnik
Of all the people guiding Holderness School through the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps no one has a better read on the pulse of the school’s well-being than Karen Penny P ‘15 ‘18, the school’s new Director of Health Services.
As she stands at the cusp of a new school year, Karen - along with school administrators - have made major changes to the way the Health Center operates to better abide by social distancing and other public health guidelines. Karen, who spent the last nine years working as a campus nurse in the Health Center, recently took time out of her busy schedule to tell us about these changes - and the basic steps we can all take to stay healthy this year.

The Health Center has made significant changes to how it sees students who feel unwell and seek treatment. What’s different this year?
This year given the COVID situation and the need to keep everybody separated, we are changing our model to an appointment-based system. So instead of having students come in when they’re not feeling well and wait all together as a group, we’re going to have them call the Health Center, tell us what’s going on, we’ll make an appointment, and get them in and out as quickly as possible. The appointments will help keep everyone spaced and away from each other, and give us an opportunity to give daily medication to students who aren’t necessarily sick.

You’ve made changes to the physical layout of the Health Center, too. Can you tell me about that?
In order to keep everything working in a good way with everybody being safe, we have moved things around in the Health Center. The old area where everybody would wait has been partitioned off for kids who are waiting for their daily medications or aren’t symptomatic or sick. We’ve changed the day room into office space, and we’re using the old office space as an area for kids with COVID-like symptoms to wait to be seen: anyone with a cough, a sniffle, headache, nausea, will be waiting in that room. It keeps everyone separated.

If I’m a student and I feel sick, what should I do this year?
If anybody has any symptoms at all that they’re worried about, anything that could be a COVID symptom – sore throat, cough, nausea, loss of taste, loss of smell, headache – any of those things, call the Health Center from your dorm and make an appointment. We’ll have you come right in, we’ll have you seen. Always wear a mask, always hand sanitize.

What’s the plan if there is a suspected COVID case on campus?
If there is a suspected case of COVID, we would isolate that student in a patient room or one of the trailers on campus. We would do some testing and they would also see Dr. Salmon [the school doctor] that day.

Masks are now required on campus. When should students wear a mask?
People should be wearing masks inside all buildings at all times, unless you are eating, in your dorm or in your own room, or brushing your teeth in the bathroom. Masks are encouraged outside if you’re going to be passing others and can’t keep a social distance of six feet or greater. If you’re outside and you’re maintaining a six-foot distance or more, you can have your mask off and socialize with your friends. But the real goal is to keep masks on when you are within six feet of someone.

Any parting advice for students, parents, and faculty?
The main point I want to stress is if everybody wears their masks, keeps their social distance, and washes their hands, I think we have a really good shot at having a good semester.
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