students in lounge

Last Monday started with a call from one of my staff members, telling me that they’d tested positive for COVID-19. My eyes are welling with tears of gratitude as I type this next sentence: this Monday started with them calling me to tell me that they are recovering.

All of us at the Women’s Center are grateful for the support you all have shown us in this past week and your concern for the affected person. I have shared your calls and emails with them.

In particular, we offer a huge shout out to the facilities management team, who figured out the safest way to remediate our space and cleaned it for us late last week. It will be a long time before I forget that the first call I received after the announcement was made was from our colleague Cheryl Gomez, contacting me to take care of the cleaning.

Last week was not the longest week of my life, though it’s a strong contender for second longest.

It feels like those of us here at the Women’s Center are living this moment slightly asynchronously. We’d been preparing to move our services online in a measured, thoughtful way two weeks ago – and then last week, we immediately pivoted to providing remote services, days ahead of the rest of our colleagues, while we stayed home to observe our period of self-monitoring. We spent the week in contact with students, providing support from afar as they settled into their new reality for the rest of the spring semester.

Today the news we have to share with you from the center is good. In addition to the progress that our affected staff member is making in their recovery, the self-monitoring period for the rest of our staff ended on Friday. We are grateful that, in our case, the lower than usual level of interaction at the center in the days just prior to and following the start of spring break seems to have helped. We also want to express our appreciation for those working in the many state, local, and university offices whose time and knowledge have helped us understand numerous processes and protocols to navigate this time as safely as possible.  

nurses with signs

But we are also soberly aware of what our colleagues in the Health System are anticipating in the days and weeks to come. Virtual thanks to healthcare workers are already proliferating online, but the best thanks those not currently in need of treatment or testing can give them is to stay home. It’s not easy, I know, but I urge you all to stay home as much as you can (and be scrupulous in how you define “need to go out”) to help flatten the curve. Our experience demonstrates the efficacy of social distancing.

In this moment, our collective well-being rests in our individual hands. A few days ago, I was struck by a post online that reframed staying home for me: rather than think of the events I was missing, it encouraged me to see the incredible act of group solidarity that staying home for now is. This is a huge sacrifice for some. It is painful for those who are currently unable to visit their loved ones who are elderly or hospitalized with illnesses not related to the coronavirus.

Will this be a moment of group solidarity? Everyone choosing to stay home – for those who cannot make that choice – is standing in solidarity with the most vulnerable among us.

I’ll be back in a few days with reflections on lessons learned about taking care of yourself and carrying on in a crisis.