First, can you tell us a little bit about your medical background and how long you’ve been at Longwood?
I am beginning my third academic year at Longwood. Previously I was the lead physician at Centra Medical Group in Farmville and my ties here go all the way back to college since I received my undergraduate degree from Hampden-Sydney. I enjoy living in Farmville and being part of a small residential university where personal relationships are valued.
Tell us about the University Health Center? Is it a ‘real’ doctor’s office?
Yes, we are. We offer students, faculty, staff and employee families everything that a primary care office provides, with one or two exceptions. The Health Center is operated for Longwood by Potomac Healthcare Solutions. We have three primary-care providers. I am the doctor on staff and there are two experienced nurse practitioners, Jeanne Strunk and Harriet Vincent (altogether, including other nurses, assistants, and others, the total staff in place is about 10). We are located across Main Street from central campus at Midtown Landings, across from the Subway. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March we have worked very closely with the Virginia Department of Health and our community partners at Centra Health on issues related to treating and stopping the spread of the virus.
We know that making this year work depends on each member of our community owning their responsibilities to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19. So far, students have been taking this very seriously and for the most part really doing their part for the community effort.Dr. Rob Wade
As we are now almost a month into classes and dealing with some cases of Covid-19, as expected, how is the process working so far? How are we adjusting as we go to make sure we’re serving students and the overall public health situation?
I believe the system is working well, and we are making adjustments as we go along and gain experience and have new information. We knew we would have cases on campus, and we are working aggressively to test those with symptoms, to identify possible contact exposures and to support students who need to isolate or quarantine (positive case numbers are posted daily on the University’s Covid dashboard). We certainly test anyone who has possible symptoms if we think there is any possibility of Covid-19, and are acting quickly to contact trace, which is really important in terms of limiting spread.
One thing that seems understandably confusing to a lot of people is there’s a lot of not-always straightforward official guidance, and varying practices, about who needs to get tested. What is the UHC doing on this front?
If you are having COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, sore throat, body aches, new loss of smell or taste, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea) or are a close contact of a positive case (spend 15 min or longer within 6 feet of the positive case) then we ask that you call the health center to schedule a telehealth visit. We may have you come in that day or a future date for testing based on how long it has been since you had your contact -- ideally four to five days for an accurate test. We send our Covid-19 testing samples to LabCorp for processing. The turnaround time for results has generally taken 1-2 days.
When students do test positive, what is the University Health Center’s ongoing role in terms of monitoring them through the time they are cleared to end isolation and return to normal campus activities?
We contact the student to notify them of the result, and we talk them through the process in terms of isolation. We work constantly with the University’s Quarantine Support Team, which serves as a point of contact with them through that process, whether they are on campus or off. Potomac also has two Certified Medical Assistants working to support students who need to quarantine or isolate in ARC Hall on campus. In general if they are asymptomatic then they will be instructed to isolate for 10 days from the date of test collection. If they are symptomatic then they will isolate 10 days from start of symptom date. We also work very carefully with the student and others including the Virginia Department of Health and others within the University community to identify anyone with whom they may have come in close contact.
What should a student do if he/she feels sick and has symptoms of Covid-19? What if it’s after hours or on the weekend when the University Health Center is closed?
As laid out in the Our Shared Commitment pledge, students must answer daily screening questions every day throughout the semester. If the answer to any one of those daily questions is “yes” then a student should contact the University Health Center at (434) 395-2102. If a student feels sick they should call the UHC for screening of their symptoms over the phone. If a student has Covid-19-related symptoms, they will be given a telehealth visit with a medical provider. If a face-to-face visit is needed and testing required, students will be directed as to how to get testing done at our facility. Patients with symptoms requiring a level of care beyond the health center will be referred to the local emergency department at Centra Southside Community Hospital.
Students with needs after hours can contact our after-hours nurse advice line at (805) 858-3117. For students that are symptomatic after hours, the Centra Medical Center, which remains open until 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, accepts walk-ins and is located on Main Street next to CVS Pharmacy. Also, the emergency department of Centra Southside Community Hospital is open 24 hours, and both facilities are within a few blocks of campus. Centra asks that you call ahead to their COVID hotline which stays updated on their website at centrahealth.com
For students who discover after hours that they may be a contact, we ask that they quarantine and call the Health Center the next business day if they are not symptomatic. They do not need to run out immediately and get tested.
What else do students need to remember if they go elsewhere for care?
If you live in campus housing and go to Centra Medical Center, the emergency department or out of town and are tested or suspected for COVID-19, DO NOT return to your campus housing. Instead call the health center at 434.395.2102 to speak with Ron Goforth or 434.395.2355 to speak with Matt McGregor between the hours of 8-12 or 1-5 Monday through Friday. If after hours, call Longwood Dispatch at 434.395.2091 to coordinate a ride and quarantine space as well as notification of Incident Command to support you during this time.
If you live in off campus housing then call the numbers above to notify that you are going in to quarantine.
Notification of the University in this way will get you in the system and faculty will be notified of your need to attend courses online.
The UHC continues as always to help students with issues unrelated to Covid-19. Can you talk about some of the changes that have been made to how the UHC operates during the fall semester due to Covid-19?
As always, we continue to see students, faculty and staff for a range of primary health issues or questions, but we’ve certainly made adjustments due to Covid-19. Anyone wanting to be seen will need to call the UHC prior to coming in. All patients will need to be screened to determine their level of need so that we can schedule them appropriately. To minimize time in the office and exposure to the facility, anyone who is suspected of having Covid-19 will have a telehealth visit and then come to the back entrance for further exam and testing, if necessary.
This year we will require scheduling an appointment for vaccinations instead of the walk-in system we have had in the past. Telehealth visits are available for general medical care. Our psychiatric nurse practitioner, Dr. Marshall Wigfall, is expanding her hours to 8 hours once a week. She will be doing telehealth visits only on Fridays and her scheduling will be managed by our clinic administrator, Ron Goforth.
Masks are required for entry to the health center. Hand sanitizer and tissues will be located throughout the building. The waiting room has chairs distanced 6 feet apart and all periodicals and items that could be picked up have been removed from the waiting room. We also ask patients to be mindful of new signage indicating the proper entrance and exit, and how to line up for check-in
We are not able to accommodate visitors coming in with patients. We ask that friends and significant others wait outside or meet up with them after their appointment.
What should students be doing to meet our responsibilities to the broader community and help continue to keep the spread of Covid-19 under control the rest of the semester?
The most important thing is everyone needs to continue with wearing a face covering, social distancing and washing/sanitizing their hands regularly. Following quarantine and isolation periods is critical in slowing the spread. This is especially true for contacts of positive cases who do not have symptoms and may not believe they need to stay in their quarantine.
Be mindful and respectful of each other’s space. Pay attention to all of the signage on campus and follow directions.
In addition to daily symptom checks, it would be good to look back on your day and identify how many people with whom you spent 15 minutes or longer within six feet. This list should not exceed 2 or 3 depending on number of roommates and if you have a “significant other.” If your number exceeds this then think of ways you could have avoided some of those numbers and avoid use those tools to avoid close contacts the next day.
We know that making this year work depends on each member of our community owning their responsibilities to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19. So far, students have been taking this very seriously and for the most part really doing their part for the community effort.
In a normal year, a range of communicable diseases are common in any college campus population, but Covid-19 obviously presents new challenges and anxieties both for students and health care providers. Longwood is incredibly grateful for the work you all are doing, and for helping students navigate anxious times. Can you speak to the importance of helping students navigate that part of this challenge, and as a health care provider do you try to factor in anxiety and mental health into supporting students who may have been exposed to Covid?
So much of the fear and anxiety around COVID comes all the confusing and conflicting messages we are hearing in the news and on social media. I would recommend limiting social media exposure and the he said she said tales that are typically not true representations of fact. Instead, review information that is updated regularly at cdc.gov or vdh.virginia.gov.
Also know that after a potential exposure it takes about four days for viral load to come to a level to get a good test. Testing too soon can cause false negatives if you are not having symptoms. So try not to freak out if you find out your friend just tested positive. Call the health center and we will help you navigate this exposure and when to come in for testing based on your timing and other factors. The best thing you can do is separate yourself from everyone, use your own bathroom if possible and talk to us. If after hours, it can typically wait until the next day unless you are having symptoms that are serious enough that you need to go to the emergency department.
Longwood is fortunate to have an excellent Counseling and Psychological Services team that is dedicated to a student’s mental wellness. They are available for telehealth visits and have produced excellent videos tools to help students, faculty and staff through this time.
The Incident Command Team is also dedicated to the physical, mental, and health needs of the campus community. We are all working together along with the Office of Student Success to help students through this time.