Students and Faculty Strive to Stay Safe During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Enzo labs continues to conduct daily COVID-19 tests. Students must be tested once every five weeks in compliance with school policy. Source: SUNY New Paltz

As SUNY New Paltz returns to primarily in-person classes for the first time in over a year, members of the campus community recount their experiences dealing with the new health and safety measures against the coronavirus pandemic.

A Caring Campus Community

Life on campus has taken a toll on many students, including Jillian Saffioti, a 20-year-old junior majoring in early childhood education at SUNY New Paltz. Staying safe has been her main priority since returning to campus in the second semester of last year. The biggest difference now is that campus is exploding with more people. 

One of the resources that Saffioti has appreciated since being on campus is free COVID-19 testing for all students and faculty. “Getting tested every week has been making me feel a lot safer on campus with this many people,” she said.

She believes it is important for everyone on campus to be vaccinated because of how much safer it will make being in classrooms and dorms. From being on campus these past few weeks, Saffioti has also noticed how many people will still wear masks outside on campus. 

“It makes me feel even safer knowing there are other people still caring about this as much as they should and as I do.” —Jennifer Cirigliano

Seeing Others Differently 

Carlos Rivera, a 20-year-old biology major and junior at SUNY New Paltz, gave insight to the dramatic changes he has seen when comparing the state of in-person learning now to that pre-March 2020.

Rivera says that although he has always been cautious about germs and illness, nothing could have prepared him for the numerous safety precautions he must go through now to attend classes. He obliges to the mask mandates, social distancing regulations and campus requirement to be vaccinated, but he, like many others, is feeling the emotional toll of these safety measures. 

Rivera tested positive for COVID-19 in November 2020, and said that it left him bedridden for a few days, but he ultimately made a full recovery. When asked about how his experience with the virus affected him, he said, “I was always very cautious, but I still got it. It didn’t hit me that hard, but I would never want to unknowingly infect someone. It could be fatal too. Since then, I’ve been even more vigilant about wearing my mask.” 

Overall, he said that this entire ordeal has made him “view people in a different light,” explaining that he lost a lot of faith in the people he used to surround himself with due to their lack of concern during these times. –Allison Demetres

Myriad Virus Precautions 

Eric Reicherter, 21, is a senior at SUNY New Paltz majoring in political science. In this phase of the pandemic, he makes continuous efforts to maintain his and others’ safety. Though it is not mandated to wear a mask outdoors, Reicherter feels it is necessary to, as he has two high-risk immediate family members at home. 

Despite his family being fully vaccinated for COVID-19, Reicherter takes the extra precaution of using a face covering in situations or environments that do not require one. Additionally, to ensure the welfare of his family members at home, the New Paltz student rarely travels outside of campus. In the case of when he does, he gets tested before and after depending on where he travels to.

Six days a week, Reicherter goes to the campus’ Athletic and Wellness Center, and always sanitizes his hands after visiting. Rather than carrying his own bottle of hand sanitizer, he makes a constant effort to utilize the stations dispersed throughout the campus. 

As often as possible, Reicherter avoids largely populated areas on and off campus, one of the sacrifices he has made to remain healthy throughout the pandemic. “I’ve been refraining from large social gatherings for the better part of this pandemic to minimize the risk of getting sick. This has not stopped since I’ve come back to New Paltz, nor has it stopped since the loosened restrictions on [club] meetings.” –Mikaela Birch

“We have no control over COVID-19, but it’s how we handle it that will change its course”

Mark Rumnit, director of the Scholar’s Mentorship Program Center, addressed changes made to the Center that comply with campus protocols. This program gives its scholars a center to study, socialize and provides them with a computer lab.

The Center now has limited occupancy, air purifiers in every room, hand sanitizers at the entrance and central points, cleanable furniture and an  air and heating filter separate from  the one provided for the Atrium, where the Center is located. Furthermore, everyone who enters must wear a mask at all times.

Rumnit, who beat cancer in 2010, does his best to stay safe from the virus. He wears his mask, consistently practices good hygiene, received his vaccination and checks in with his doctors to stay informed about the disease and his health.

“Use common sense, talk to local health experts,” Rumnit said on how to handle the pandemic “We have no control over COVID-19, but it’s how we handle it that will change its course.” –Cassidy Douglas

“I think getting vaccinated is imperative for the greater good of everyone”

Fiona Leonard, a 20-year-old philosophy student at SUNY New Paltz, shared how she keeps herself and others safe during these uncertain times. Leonard takes the pandemic and her health seriously. She believes people should continue to take precautions, despite the lifting of masks and social distancing mandates.

Leonard has been vaccinated for almost six months, but she still wears a mask whenever she’s in public or around people she doesn’t know. She is a firm proponent of the COVID-19 vaccine and encourages everyone to get vaccinated. Leonard believes that getting vaccinated is not just about keeping yourself healthy, but others as well. 

“I think getting vaccinated is imperative for the greater good of everyone. It’s selfish to not get vaccinated,” she said.–Skye Zagorski

The Vaccine’s Arrival Eases Coronavirus Worries

Fares Sirdah, 19, is a biochemistry major at SUNY New Paltz, and he is one of many commuter students faced with the challenge of keeping both him and his family, whom he lives with at home, safe. 

Even with the measures put in place to keep everyone safe, it is still up to the students how they choose to conduct themselves when no one else is watching. After deciding to get the vaccine along with the rest of his family, Sirdah has essentially become worry-free. 

“No, I’m not worried after being vaccinated,” she said. “I wear a mask at school but even if I were to test positive at any point, the chance of me or my family getting sick has dropped dramatically.” –John Sparaco 

Some Positive Changes Come From the Pandemic

Fiona Mulvihill, 18, is a freshman at SUNY New Paltz with an undeclared major. She’s interested in going into psychology. 

Mulvihill was eager to receive the coronavirus vaccine right away as her parents hold important, essential jobs; her mother is a nurse and her father is a firefighter. 

Starting her first year of college made her nervous and worried at first, given that she’s only been online the last year, but now feels as if she’s settled in which she likes. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Mulvihill said that she “100 percent gained something from COVID-19,” and it motivated her to start working out and getting into shape by running. Ironically, she said it was a good experience for her because she knows people were struggling. She is glad her friends got the vaccine as well so they could see each other. 

Mulvihill feels that she has loosened up since the beginning of the pandemic. The pandemic prompted her to stick to a routine beneficial to her physical and mental health. Now she has become even more punctilious to ensure she has time to work out daily, get her schoolwork done, and make time for her friends and family. –Julie Marasco

The Virus Brings Long-Lasting Impacts

Nina Monteleone, 19, is a sophomore student at SUNY New Paltz majoring in art education. Monteleone has expressed great concern over the spread of the delta variant on campus and within the community as she still suffers from her own COVID-19 experience to this day.

“In December of 2020, I contracted COVID-19 and I personally have had a chronic migraine condition where I have been in pain everyday, to this day,” she said.

She believes the campus made the correct decision in now requiring off campus students to get tested as well as vaccine requirements for in-person classes. Although she’s optimistic on this end, she’s still concerned about places she notes as hotspots for spreading the coronavirus. These locations include bars, indoor gatherings and even lecture halls during class periods.

“Too many people disregard this virus and don’t think it will affect them long term, but it did for me, ” Monteleone said. –Abbey Nettle

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