The idea began early in the spring, just as Trinity was starting to weigh its options for the Fall 2020 semester. The newly-formed Health and Wellness Working Group, led by Gary Neal, senior director of counseling, health, and wellness services, quickly understood that if the campus was to reopen in any capacity, certain behaviors would have to be established and promoted across the Trinity community.
Katherine Hewitt, Trinity’s wellness coordinator, was tasked with building a framework that would guide students, faculty, and staff in following safe behaviors for the fall semester.
“While earning my graduate degree in public health, I completed course and field work in epidemiology and emergency preparedness, which have given me knowledge and perspective to understand the complexities of a pandemic,” Hewitt says. “While I don’t think anyone can ever be fully ready to manage a pandemic, everyone on our team serves in a critical role that is valued by everyone.”
True to its emphasis on experiential learning, Trinity had to look no further than its own Department of Health Care Administration for assistance in the form of two students–Gabriella Lopez M'21 and Sabrina Arizaga ’18, M'21. They were designated as interns to help ensure a safe return to Trinity’s campus.
Lopez and Arigaza worked with Hewitt and the Health and Wellness Working Group over the summer to create the public health campaign ProtecTU, which centers around a pledge to help stop the spread of COVID-19 on campus in the fall.
At its core, the ProtecTU Health Pledge is a social contract that stipulates the health of the individual is dependent on the actions of everyone. There are three key tenets to the ProtecTU Health Pledge:
- Acknowledge our new reality and the role every individual has to protect the Trinity community.
- Be accountable for managing each individual’s health and hygiene.
- Take action to protect the Trinity community through behaviors like testing, contact tracing, social distancing, and wearing face coverings.
Hewitt, Lopez, and Arizaga collaborated with Trinity’s Department of Strategic Communications and Marketing to develop the ProtecTU name, logo, and signage to support the campaign. The materials emphasize the five campaign pillars of hand washing, staying home when showing COVID-19 symptoms, wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and sanitizing spaces and surfaces.
“We want to equip the TU community with the tools they need to protect themselves and each other,” Lopez explains. “It is extremely important to remember we cannot ProtecTU without everybody’s participation.”
The ProtecTU campaign is especially important with the return of students from all around the country and world. Undergraduates hail from 47 states in the U.S. and 68 different countries, each with their own public health standards and protocols surrounding COVID-19. The effects of the coronavirus may not be as significant in some students’ hometowns, and social distancing and mask wearing might not be considered as necessary. The ProtecTU campaign helps align students, faculty, and staff so that everyone is doing their part to help prevent the spread of the disease, both on- and off-campus.
“The moment we let our guard down, it can have an enormous health impact on the livelihood of every single person on our campus,” Hewitt says. “Off-campus get-togethers, socializing at bars, and interacting with people who don’t observe the safe behaviors in the Health Pledge can translate to possible exposure and illness, which in turn comes back to Trinity.”
A de-densified campus, remote learning, and social distancing will test Trinity’s strong sense of community in ways no one would have imagined a year ago. But by following the ProtecTU Health Pledge, students, faculty, and staff can perhaps foster a renewed sense of community in unique and unexpected ways. And that makes Lopez hopeful.
“I absolutely did not think I would be living through a pandemic, let alone involved in Trinity’s response to the pandemic,” says Lopez. “But I’m grateful to be a small part of the process. The experience has been incredibly rewarding. It’s inspirational to see what can happen when people who care deeply about their work and their community come together selflessly for the greater good.”
Find more information about ProtecTU on Trinity’s COVID-19 Health Hub.