Health center to expand services for Fall semester

Services from the Health Center and the Counseling Center will be expanding, as confirmed by Executive Director for Health and Wellness Dr. Leslie Lawrence during the Town Meeting on July 1. Students arriving to campus from certain states will be required to quarantine for two weeks, and all students on campus will have to undergo continuous testing.

The Institute will be utilizing Webex and online tools to increase service capacity to the Rensselaer community, though the availability of student-run RPI Ambulance services has yet to be determined. Executive Director for Health and Wellness Dr. Leslie Lawrence expressed that the Student Health Services “will be operating, I hope, at a greater capacity.”

He added that “both health and counseling are…trying to schedule appropriate visits over Webex to make it easier for students so they don't have to travel across campus and don’t have to come in contact with as many people, of course, if those are appropriate.”

If students feel that it is safer to come to campus for counseling, “because you don’t want the possibility that people can overhear you [in reference to roommates, a concern brought up by Grand Marshal Advaith Narayan ’21], we’re still going to be available for you to do that.” Lawrence mentioned that the Student Health Services will continue offering services over Webex, as many students seem to like the flexibility of Webex this summer.

RPI is “looking to have several group meetings, especially with the new students” once students are on campus, but Lawrence added that “all students will be invited online” for these meetings. Lawrence said the Institute wishes to start these meetings “because part of the problem with young students is they don’t always seek out help when they need it.”

Additionally, Lawrence asked parents to be aware of their student’s mental health and to contact the counseling center whenever the need arises, as the Counseling Center’s scheduling has been restructured to ensure that students can be seen on the same day. Jackson remarked that the Institute has strengthened the use of data analytics so that the Institute has “an even earlier warning or sense that someone may need help,” even if a student hasn’t come in yet to seek counseling help.

Dr. Jackson confirmed that student and employee medical insurances will cover COVID-19 costs related to testing. Lawrence explained that tests from sites not affiliated with RPI would be accepted, as long as the Health Center received the results .

If New York maintains the 14-day quarantine requirement, Dr. Lawrence stated that “we want to bring the students from those states [from which NYS requires 14-day quarantine]... back a bit earlier, so they don’t miss as many classes.” Since the states in which NYS requires quarantine are changing with time, RPI’s plans remain subject to change. Lawrence stated that “we probably won’t know the exact date your student’s coming back until August rolls around, and we see which states are going to be in that group.”

General move-in and testing dates for COVID-19 will be sent to each class cohort on an individual basis. Students coming from states for which a two-week quarantine is required by NYS will be provided with food delivery by the Institute. Jackson elaborated that students would be able to order food from an app, and then the Institute will deliver the meals.

When a parent asked if that applied to students on off-campus housing as well, Jackson responded “we’re going to try as much as we can with those who are off-campus, particularly if they are required to be quarantined.”

During the town meeting, Jackson emphasized that “one has to agree to adhere to all the plan protocols as a requirement to be on the campus, to attend in-person classes, to live in Institute housing, and to participate in any Institute activities.”

All Rensselaer community members will be required to “participate in daily monitoring programs which will include symptom reporting once daily, and keeping their own records of travel, movements, and close contacts.” Travel, movements, and close contacts would only need to be shared with the school and reported to the Rensselaer County Health Department if the person tests positive for COVID-19.

Rensselaer is required to “report any COVID positive case to the New York State Department of Health,” according to Jackson, who stressed that RPI will do so “while preserving privacy as much as possible.”

Lawrence added that the Institute would tell other students of positive COVID cases, and that “it’s something I want to do because it’ll remind us if we’re all behaving” in reference to following social distancing, wearing masks, and following cleaning and sanitizing procedures.

RPI plans to follow the spread of COVID-19 in the United States and in other countries, and increase testing frequency above the anticipated biweekly test if COVID-19 circulation “starts again in our local area” or if travel by any Rensselaer community members indicate the need for such testing.