COVID-19 starter pack: A brief guide on what to do when you are confused By Ramal Rana & Felicia Daryonoputri

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Fall 2020 is here and many of us are planning to move back to campus, or are already here. Moving during times like these can be challenging, which is why we are providing a compilation of useful information that can be used to stay safe, healthy, and happy.

Moving back to campus

Moving in itself is stressful, but moving in the middle of a pandemic requires more work to keep yourself and those around you safe.

This is why it is important to make sure that we have everything ready before move-in day. Based on public health guidelines, students travelling to campus will be required to self-isolate. However, residence spaces cannot be used for self-isolation – incoming students are required to organize their own accommodations. Luckily there are plenty of accommodations with student rates across the region.

For students travelling from outside of Canada, here is a checklist to ensure that your travels run smoothly. When entering Canada, students will be required to prepare a quarantine plan which will be shared with the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA), and those who are not following it will face penalties. It is also important to review travel restrictions and check if you are eligible to travel, as it varies between countries. For further immigration services, you can book a one-on-one meeting with UW’s immigration counselling via the Student Success Office or submit an online inquiry.

What to do when you are back.

After completing your period of self-isolation and settling down, you may be looking for things to do on campus. Operations continue to open up as the fall term progresses, including academic buildings, study spaces, and other student services. Most of the buildings have modified operating hours, designated entrances, and impose strict health and safety guidelines. UW Food Services is also opening, and up-to-date information regarding that can be easily accessed on their Instagram page (@uwaterloofood).

Campus Wellness remains open for the fall but has been modified to accommodate the current situation. All health service appointments will initially be addressed virtually through phone or video. 

“Many of the services in Health Services and Counselling Services that are usually in person are being delivered on-line; either telephone calls, or confidential video conferencing,” said Walter Mittelstaedt, Director of Campus Wellness

Those deemed to require in-person care will be permitted to book an appointment and will be required to go through a COVID-19 pre-screening. Counselling services will also be provided virtually, including all booked appointments.

Health Services is offering some services in person… all visitors will first have complete a COVID-19 screening as they enter the building,” Said Mittelstaedt.

Symptoms and what to do when you have them

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common symptoms of COVID 19 are fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, and fatigue amongst many others that can be found on their website, where they provide constant updates about the virus. If you think you have been exposed to the virus, feel free to complete the COVID-19 self-assessment provided by the government of Ontario.

“Children have been more commonly reported to have abdominal symptoms, and skin changes or rashes,” said Dr. Clark Baldwin from Campus Wellness.

Certain symptoms can be life-threatening. Watch out for anyone experiencing severe trouble breathing, confusion, pressure or tightness on the chest, loss of consciousness, or has bluish lips or face. If you or anyone you know feel this way, call 911 immediately. 

 “If anyone is having difficulty breathing or experiencing other severe symptoms, they should call 911 immediately, and advise them of the symptoms and travel history,” said Dr. Baldwin

There are four different assessment and testing centres in the Waterloo region. Complete information regarding operating hours and registration can be found on their website. According to the Region of Waterloo, if in need of urgent care, call 911 or visit a hospital emergency department and inform them of your travel history and symptoms.

What to do to stay healthy 

As the great Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus once said, “prevention is better than cure.” Here are some tips on how to stay healthy while in isolation.

Everyone hates chores, but according to the World Health Organization (WHO), right now is not the best time to skip them. Using a simple rag to clean commonly touched surfaces may go a long way in preventing the growth of the virus in your home. However, that is not to say that other chores should be missed. Cleaning commonly touched surfaces is just the little extra that should be done to keep you and your family relatively safe.

The most popular method around to stay healthy with or without a pandemic is to regularly wash your hands. Our hands are cesspools of germs, and they are the first point of contact between anything you are doing and your body. If you are out shopping, your hands touch the items you want to buy, which have probably been touched by many unknown people before you decided to pick it up. So, make sure you wash your hands often.

For fear of sounding like a broken record, if your health permits, wear a mask. Wearing a mask will protect the main access and exit point of the virus – your lungs. If you are sick, the easiest way to spread it is by coughing on innocent bystanders. A mask prevents droplets from flying out and infecting others around you. While ideally at this point you should be self-isolating, you will likely need care and infecting the person taking care of you is never good. Even when you are not sick, wearing a mask ensures that the virus does not have easy access to you through your mouth, and if you happen to touch your face with unwashed hands you will only touch the mask.

The need to be safe and healthy right now is shared, and while waiting for the pandemic to be over, one crucial way to strengthen your immunity is to stay physically fit, consume nutritious foods, and avoid smoking. An article published by Harvard Medical school states that regular exercise may improve your immunity, which will naturally improve your defences against COVID-19. 

“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are,” as Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote in his book The Physiology of Taste, is now more commonly referred to “You are what you eat.” If you eat nutritious meals full of health, you will be healthier. Do not forget to wash your hands before and after partaking in any meal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 7000 chemicals in cigarette smoke which harm the body’s immune system, which defends the body from diseases and infection. A weakened immune system will be much less effective at protecting your body.

We all know that physical health is not the only kind that has been compromised with the oncoming of this pandemic. Keep your mental health in check by avoiding stressful news and staying positive. Once the rain subsides, a rainbow emerges. Think of this as a prolonged storm, with a vibrant rainbow just waiting once it all ends. However, you may need professional help. These days have been quite difficult. UW Health Services is operational and ready to help you cope.

“Students can call in to Counselling or Health Services to discuss their unique circumstances and receive support for ongoing coping. In addition to seeking the support of Campus Wellness services, we know that some individuals are also seeking support in their home communities,” said Mittelstaedt.

According to Saul Mcleod, a psychology teaching assistant and published researcher for the University of Manchester, Division of Neuroscience & Experimental Psychology, stress and anxiety also alter the effectiveness of your immune system. An excess amount of either one inhibits your body’s ability to defend itself. This is why stressed people are sick more often. One way to keep your mental health in check is by keeping yourself busy doing things that make you feel good – like catching up on a hobby, or learning a new skill.

To summarize; keep your home clean, wash your hands, wear a mask, stay active, and stay positive. Common symptoms of COVID-19 to look out for include, fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, and fatigue. Visit the CDC website to stay informed. If you have just returned to Canada, self-isolate and follow a quarantine plan. Many of the campus services are operational with certain modifications to accommodate public health guidelines, for more information visit UW’s COVID-19 page. We hope you have a safe and healthy fall term!

If you experience a medical emergency or mental health crisis, please refer to the following emergency services and contacts:

General emergency contacts

  • UW Police 519-888-4567 ext 22222
  • or 9-1-1

Hospital information

Off-campus walk-in clinics

Crisis and distress lines

To book an appointment with:

  • Counselling Services please call, 519-888-4567 ext. 32655 
  • Health Services please call, 519-888-4096.

 

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