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  • Writer's pictureThe Beacon Today

A peek behind closed doors Part 1: PBA student feels 'embarrassed' after on-site COVID-19 test

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

While many college campuses have opted for individualized COVID-19 protocols to suit their specific student body’s needs, PBA is one of the many universities known to have been orchestrating on-campus COVID-19 tests within the first week of live classes. (Credit: S.C. Air National Guard)

“Tick. Tick. Tick,” the oven clock beeps, alerting you of each minute that passes by as you apprehensively pace around your college apartment.  

You briefly glance down at your phone, palms clammy and fingers switching, as you anxiously anticipate the arrival of campus health officials. 

The time of your scheduled appointment draws ever closer. After what feels like an eternity, an abrupt knock at your door shakes you out of your previously restless stance. 

Two COVID-19 test administrators (dressed head-to-toe in rubber gloves, face shields, gowns and additional protective gear) stand in the hallway, joined by the unexpected company of a campus safety officer. 

You back away from the entrance and walk toward the living room, expecting the health officials to follow.

They do not. 

Instead, the two individuals remain firmly stationed just outside your doorway.

After answering a few questions and filling out the required paperwork, you are directed to turn, face the wall and breathe in deeply as the female nurse carefully unpackages the infamous sample collector. 

In an instant, the swab makes its targeted move deep into your nasal cavity; although the procedure secures the desired end-goal, you soon realize that’s not the factor that really hits home.  

In stark contrast, it’s the realization that your participation in the COVID-19 test was advertised to the entire residence hall with no privacy.

The pandemic is hanging over everyone’s head, and the scenario depicted is what some of Palm Beach Atlantic University’s students have had to endure since moving back to college. 

For student Tabitha Maher, the experience associated with the test was more than just reality fulfilling its predestined role. It was a glimpse of one of her own worst nightmares. 

With the current pandemic presenting her with newfound anxiety and already being affected by several underlying health conditions, the 20-year-old did not expect the lack of consideration when she took her on-campus COVID-19 test.

Existing in a world where nearly any form of physical contact with others is forbidden and having a constant fear they’ll be alienated by their peers and society alike, college students currently affected by the known pandemic are made victims by a lesser-known enemy: the terrifying questions they never seem to be given answers to. (Graphic courtesy of Brenna Brown.)

“I felt really embarrassed," Maher said. "I [understand] for safety reasons that they couldn’t come into the apartment, but I wish it could have been a little more private.” 

A resident of Jupiter, Florida, and third-year-returner to PBA’s main campus, Maher recognized upon her arrival that standardized COVID-19 testing was expected of all individuals returning to campus for the fall semester. 

In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines, PBA’s COVID-19 response team has stated that any student experiencing a fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat or other COVID-19 symptoms should isolate themselves and seek medical attention. 

Given that Maher admitted to experiencing a slight sore throat and headache the evening of Aug. 17 (the first day of classes, no less), she felt it imperative to alert the school of her symptoms and respectfully follow suit with its COVID-19 policies.  

In her case, PBA’s established protocol, “Sailfish Safe,” mandated that she isolate herself in her room for 72-hours and partake in the test as soon as possible. 

Dr. Debra A. Schwinn, PBA’s newly elected president, has expressed to the public over the past several months how much thought, effort and prayer have gone into the school’s reopening plans. 

Working with a team of dedicated faculty, certified physicians and COVID-19 specialist, Patrick Heyman, Schwinn aims to consistently market the school’s updated health code policies to students and families. 

“We do not take the responsibility for the health and the safety of our PBA community lightly,” Schwinn said. “We have very strong nursing and pharmacy schools with experts in infectious diseases who are up to date with national guidelines, working with our experienced Crisis Management Team to lead our efforts.” 

In addition to the many COVID-19-friendly arrangements they’ve orchestrated in the past six months (i.e. social-distanced dining hall, sanitizer stations, sneeze-guards in specific areas of campus, etc.), Schwinn and her assisting faculty have incorporated an FAQ student guide promoting their protocols and procedures. (Photo courtesy of PBA.)

Of these extensive measures, Schwinn has taken more personal measures to assure the student body that she’s taking their needs and concerns about the virus seriously. 

Since classes began on Aug. 17, the president has participated in daily Zoom meetings (scheduled on school days at 5 p.m.) with the currently quarantined/isolated students. 

Although these online conferences are intended to provide these individuals with a direct line of communication to the head of the school, the students who find themselves in these positions are not required to participate in said meetings. 

While her personal experience with how the school orchestrated campus testing was one she would rather relive, Maher has since acknowledged that innovations such as this made her time period in isolation a little more encouraging. 

“I really like how every day [Schwinn is] meeting with students and actually listening to what we have to say,” Maher said. “We aren’t being identified as [case numbers].”

By Brenna Brown

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