The motto for Tidewater Community College: “From here, go anywhere.” Today, you can also go to class, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
At Tidewater Community College, 90 percent of all courses are still online, but classes that require hands-on instruction are inside TCC buildings for the first official time this fall semester. It’s estimated of TCC’s 13,000 students, 2,200 will be on campus this fall.
When 10 On Your Side visited Monday, many students were inside the Regional Health Professions Center. That’s the building for medical training.
In the typical classroom or lab, everyone wears masks. Professors are behind Plexiglas walls of protection with spray and wipes everywhere.
We visited a lab where they are learning how to become paramedics, they were training on treating a patient for transport with a spinal injury. Social distancing in those situations isn’t practical.
“We are attempting social distancing. We’re back boarding and we’re going to be pretty close to each other. It’s just making sure everything gets wiped down, sanitize later, handwashing — best hygiene possible,” Stella Escano said.
There is a fine line between in-person instruction and being safe even when social distancing isn’t available all the time.
“I felt comfortable just knowing that I’m taking proper hygiene, washing my hands, and making sure I’m wearing a mask and not coughing and breathing on her. I am making sure everything was sterile before and after anyone else touches it,” student Brooke Robinson said.
Professors are happy to get back students who are starving for one-on-one instruction and there’s some catching up to do.
“Normally at this stage of the game, they would be going to their first assignments in the clinical environment out at the hospitals, but because of COVID-19 we haven’t been able to bring them in to learn skills like [taking] vital signs,” Associate Professor Ellyn Hodgis said.
On Monday, Professor Mark Schubert was teaching students how to use an X-ray machine, but first, he gave his COVID-19 speech.
“Look, if you wake up and you’re not feeling well, then take some vitamin C, do some yoga, and do not come to lab if you have any COVID-related symptoms,” he said.
Back in the paramedic lab, student Kodi Edmond,s who worked all night for a medical transport company, came directly to class.
“I was ecstatic,” he laughs. “I couldn’t wait. I just worked last night, came straight here, and even though I’m tired I’m still happy to be here.”
“We have senior students who are out today for the first time since March, so it has been very difficult that they have been out of the arena for so long, and they have to play catch-up,” Hodgis added.
Tom Calogrides is TCC’s dean of health professions and says there are many precautions in place.
“We’ve got cleaning supplies, disinfectant supplies. We asked the students and the faculty and everybody to be involved in their own well-being. We want everyone to join as a partner to keeping everyone healthy,” Calogrides said.
The lab students Monday said they are also concerned with situations like what happened at the University of North Carolina. School opened. There, however, student parties led to more COVID-19 positive tests, and the administration shut down UNC again.
“It’s frustrating for us who need the hands-on activity. It’s pushing us back, and not allowing us to do those things that you need to do … and it’s selfish … that they are just partying for fun instead of actually getting their education,” Robinson said.
Also opening Monday Virginia Wesleyan University. Chief Marketing Officer for Virginia Wesleyan University Stephanie Smaglo sent pictures of students socially distancing in the gym. As far as the photo showed, most or all students were wearing masks.
“We are returning to campus with entirely face-to-face instruction. The only exception to this is if students or faculty members have a health condition that puts them at greater risk of complications from coronavirus, if they are in an identified category that puts them at higher risk, if they live with someone (or are in frequent contact with someone) who is compromised, or are otherwise at greater risk of complications from COVID-19,” Smaglo wrote in a message to 10 On Your Side.
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