SEGOVIA – In the afternoon of Thursday, February 27, rumours swirled around Whatsapp chats and classrooms of the unthinkable – an IE Segovia student diagnosed with COVID-19, known as coronavirus. Reports trickled not from the university but from Whatsapp forwards and news articles; panic ensued. That very night, a message from the diagnosed student, a resident of the Factory Residence Hall, confirmed our fears – “I’m positive for the virus”.
Coronavirus, a virus originating from the Wuhan province of China, has spread like wildfire since its original cases in the final days of 2019. Despite quarantines measures, border closing, and significant efforts on part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other health bodies, the virus continues to spread internationally, reaching every inhabited continent, with 100,728 cases and 3,412 deaths. While not particularly dangerous for healthy individuals, the virus threatens those with compromised immune systems and the elderly, the latter of which constitutes a large percentage of the Segovia population.
At the onset of the diagnosis, Factory disclosed what information they knew about the afflicted student. Over the next few days, they organised an information event with medical professionals, quarantined at-risk students, and moved meals to the IE campus to avert community spread. However, Factory’s slowness to update its residents on the situation left students feeling disappointed at every turn, and students met every measure taken by Factory with distrust.
“They keep a lot of information to themselves, labelling it as ‘confidential’,” exclaimed one disheartened resident, “We have the right to know what’s happening.”
The information session with medical professionals, meant to calm students down and provide information about containment and prevention, did little to quell uncertainty, with students widely rating it as unsatisfactory. They were concerned with the method; gathering 150+ students in the Factory cafeteria during a highly contagious outbreak. Additionally, many found the answers they gave repetitive, one student claiming, “They had the same answer to every question.”
Doctors tested and quarantined the BBA students in the afflicted student’s degree and disseminated information regarding prevention for Factory residents and staff. Residents and staff must take their temperature data twice a day and report any symptoms which may occur. Additionally, Factory provided dinner at the University for the weekend, and hand sanitiser now appears in most gathering places in the residency.
Students split essentially evenly in opinion on the effectiveness of these measures. Some saw these steps as half-hearted. “I didn’t feel safe,” said one resident, “They didn’t do anything.” Residents became worried with the continuing buffet services and the inadequacy of cleaning services possibly contributing to viral spread. However, some students kept calm, saying, “There’s no more they can do, the prevention information is there.”
More important than the physical effects are the stress and inconveniences caused by the virus. 58% of Factory residents feel that the virus affected their academics and academics. “I’m afraid to make contact with people and go to class,” said one resident, “I’ve lost all focus.” Stress prevented people from studying over midterms, and some canceled weekend activities to protect themselves. “I have my meals in my room to reduce the chance of getting infected,” said another student.
Some residents self-quarantine in their rooms, some leave the residency entirely. While the front desk reported an average outflow of students for the weekend, many took up residency in friends’ apartments or even fled home for the weekend. The constant reporter presence outside Factory did not help the tense mood within.
Many students, however, felt the panic of coronavirus is overblown. “Factory is remaining calm as they should be,” expressed one resident. “They try their best and are actually concerned about us” says another. When asked how the case in Factory affected another student’s academics and extracurriculars, a student said, “It has not in any way.”
Despite how they felt about the panic, most students acknowledge the lacklustre communication between Factory and its residents. While IE constantly sends out emails updating students on the situation, Factory only sent one vague email about the case, breeding distrust between the residents and Factory. “They are not saying everything that happens,” said one resident. “Only 1 email was sent,” claimed another, “And it contained false information.”
As these cases develop and spread, as we’ve seen with the second case in Segovia, an organised, transparent response on part of IE and Factory would go miles to help ease concerns in the student body. However, panic is simply human nature, and not even the best lines of communications could quell all the unrest.
The best IE students can do to prevent coronavirus from spreading is to remain vigilant against symptoms and take sanitary measures such as hand-washing and sneezing into their elbow. We should not allow a cycle of panic to take over the student body as happened in Factory, and we should listen to medical professionals when they speak.
By now, the original student infected by coronavirus has recovered. “I can tell you that I’m feeling great!” he said, looking forward to returning from quarantine. No other cases came from the Factory incident. It seems that for now, at least, everything is calm on the Factory front.