As the United States endures a national flu pandemic, concern has risen among many students at HWS about health standards at the colleges. This concern was exacerbated by a small outbreak of influenza and influenza-like illnesses on our campus. Rumors began to swirl about quarantines being imposed on certain residences. Students may have noticed their professors liberalizing their policies on class attendance or the increasing availability of hand sanitizer in public places such as the entrance to Saga Dining Hall. This was all part of an effort by the colleges to prevent a more serious problem on campus, but a lack of transparency about the issue raised more worries than it prevented.
The Herald investigated these rumors by conferring with students and faculty about these issues. One student, Jamie Njpanda Kaewwanna, explained that many of her peers on the fourth floor of Reese Hall had become sick or even been hospitalized. She also wrote that the JPR First Year Neighborhood had been bleached in an effort to prevent more people from becoming sick. Many of her peers voluntarily remained in their dorms for the duration of their illness, but Kaewwanna dispelled rumors that there was any kind of quarantine. The college provided food and health kits for those who remained isolated during this time, although residents complained about the quality of the food, saying “the bread was stale.” Students can stay healthy by adopting healthy habits like washing their hands frequently, eating nutritious meals, and adequate sleep. The students affirmed the importance of good hygiene towards preventing the flu, saying, “We believe that its from not washing our hands after using the bathroom and people touching doors.”
The Herald contacted a number of administration officials about this story, but only Vice President for Campus Life Robb Flowers accepted our invitation to comment. Flowers confirmed that the colleges have been offering food and medication to students in their residence halls on request and that “we have instituted additional cleaning of residence halls and other areas on-campus.” He denied reports that the JPR First Year Neighborhood or any specific area of campus was more impacted than others by the outbreak, except for, “a slight increase in illness on one floor of a residence hall but for only a few days.” Flowers declined to disclose how many students have visited Hubbs or Geneva General Hospital this flu season, but it is important to note that, “The numbers of reported illnesses on campus has remained relatively low and is comparable to most other years.” There appears to be no cause for alarm about the flu at this time, but this outbreak should emphasize the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and taking precautions with our health.