By Noah Marshalek
PITTSBURGH, PA- Point Park University Dean of Students, Keith Paylo’s normal day at work is spent trying to get college students engaged and active at Point Park University but recently, the normal day is no longer as normal. Since the middle of December, the COVID-19 virus has been spreading across the globe quick enough to bring the general public to a near panic. As a result of this Paylo has had to shift his attention at work towards preventing the spread of this virus from affecting his student body. This virus has already infected more than 100,000 humans and has killed 3,809 across the globe according to the Global Health Policy on March 9th, 2020. The United States has confirmed 647 cases and 25 deaths have been caused by the COVID-19 virus according to the Centers of Control and Disease Prevention on March 10th, 2020. With the COVID-19 virus, caused by a novel coronavirus, spreading so quickly, it is of the utmost importance to do as much as possible to slow the spread of this virus down and prevent more illnesses. But with the preparation of both Point Park and the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD), is there really anything to be worried about?
With six confirmed cases in Pennsylvania, this state is far from over in its fight against the COVID-19 virus.
“There has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes at the Health Department to assure that we are as prepared as possible for a possible outbreak,” said Dr. Lee Harrison, Chair of the Board of Health for ACHD.
This quote from Dr. Harrison came from the ACHD meeting addressing the COVID-19 virus on March 2nd, 2020. This meeting was full of confident statements from some of the best doctors in the entire region. ACHD claims they have been monitoring the spread of this virus very closely. Ryan Scarpino, Public Health Information Officer at ACHD, said he believes “the likelihood of local exposure remains low.”
The ACHD suggests basic preventive steps to slow the spread of this virus and lower your risk of contracting this virus. These steps include staying home when you’re sick, covering coughs and sneezes with your elbow and not your hands, washing your hands frequently, avoiding shaking hands, and routinely cleaning highly touched areas.
Dr. LuAnn Brink, Chief Epidemiologist at ACHD is thankful to have great help all around Allegheny County, “ We’re fortunate to have so many stakeholders in this region who have been engaged and involved since possible exposure to COVID-19 first became a concern. These partners include healthcare providers and health care systems, schools and universities, and transportation agencies,” Brink said at a March 2nd press conference.
Allegheny County is doing everything in its power to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, so what is Point Park doing to prevent the Coronavirus from running rampant on campus?
The University of Washington was the first college campus in America shutting down classes and instead sending 50,000 students online to complete their class work.
When asked about what steps would be done in the case of a Point Park student contracting this virus, Paylo said, “ All universities are in the planning stage for instances of the Coronavirus. There are no cases at this time, and much of the country is still virus free. Obviously this person would be quarantined and made to stay away from the university community. The university will continue to sanitize all areas of heavy traffic and continue to do everything possible to keep the spread of any virus as low as possible.”
Dean Paylo is prioritizing students’ health in the midst of this outbreak to lower the possibility of an outbreak on campus. With Point Park being located in such a dynamic area in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh, health risks such as the outbreak of a virus can be exaggerated due to such a high concentration of people in such a small area. Dean Paylo has a backup plan in place already in the case that a student or staff member falls ill with COVID-19.
“ Contingency planning is being done to prepare for online delivery options for classes. Many universities like Point Park are taking time to make sure that their infrastructure is ready to handle the need for students to take classes online. We as a university want to support students in any way possible so that students do not miss time in their classes,” Paylo said.
With the CDC claiming COVID-19 to be a public health emergency, preventing this disease from spreading is at the top of every college administrator’s list, including Point Park’s. While new viruses like coronavirus are intimidating, it is situations like this that can be prevented by sticking to the basics, Paylo said.
“ Getting out information for basic precautions to prevent the spread of any virus. Wash your hands frequently, cough into your elbow and not hand, sanitize areas of frequent touch, and stay home when you are sick and seek medical attention. The basics are still the best advice at this time,” says Dean Paylo.
Going back to the basics and sticking to them is advice given out by both ACHD and Point Park University. Using these simple steps can be the key factor in staying healthy in this global fight against COVID-19. If you or anyone you know is experiencing any symptoms of coronavirus, contact your local health agency to find out what steps should be taken in the fight against COVID-19. ACHD and Point Park both recommend avoiding as much physical contact as possible while also washing your hands often.
While the COVID-19 virus may not be going anywhere soon, for Allegheny County residents and Point Park students, confidence is high due to the foundation laid by both communities.