Medically high-risk BYU students concerned for Fall Semester

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Leer en español: Estudiantes de BYU que son de alto riesgo médico preocupan por el semestre de otoño

BYU students who are immunocompromised or otherwise at high-risk for catching COVID-19 have a particular set of concerns as Fall Semester approaches.

BYU stated on its COVID-19 webpage that “BYU students in high-risk categories, including older adults and those who are immunocompromised, are strongly encouraged to not be on campus during Fall Semester 2020.” 

Despite not coming to campus, students at high-risk for COVID-19 have other concerns with the upcoming semester. 

Senior Kylie Clauson has endometriosis and will be staying in North Carolina with her husband for the Fall Semester. (Kylie Clauson)

Senior Kylie Clauson was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2019. According to the Office on Women’s Health, endometriosis “happens when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (womb) grows outside of the uterus.”

Although endometriosis is not an immunodeficiency, Clauson said that it still compromises her immune system and makes her more susceptible to viruses and developing other immunocompromising illnesses in the future.

Clauson moved to North Carolina with her husband once the pandemic began. She had to quickly adjust to taking her classes online after the move and will continue to take them throughout the Fall Semester in North Carolina. 

“I am happy that I have so many options for classes to take while staying in North Carolina for the foreseeable future,” she said. 

Clauson said her only concern is the availability of resources for students that live far away. “I hope that professors receive proper training and resources to make online classes more seamless and educational.” 

Graduate student Sarah Polhill has been on immunosuppressant medications for arthritis since she was 15. Her medication calms her immune system from attacking her joints, but it also lowers her immune system. 

“My chronic illness, that, to be honest, can be excruciatingly painful and limiting at times, was triggered by me catching a virus,” she said. “This is why I take COVID-19 seriously.”

Polhill said she is relieved that her master’s program has planned to be entirely online for fall, and she is grateful for the options that BYU has provided her. 

Sarah Polhill, right, has been on immunosuppressant medications for arthritis that lower her immune system. She is concerned her husband Peter, left, may have to go to campus for classes. (Sarah Polhill)

Her only concern is the possibility of her husband having to go on campus. 

“He has three classes that he needs to take to graduate on time that are not offered in any online format,” she said. 

When Polhill recently visited campus, it was nearly empty. Someone walking within 2 feet of her without a mask was a small wake up call for her about what fall could look like. 

“Campus is a germ hotspot,” she said. “You have to touch doors that thousands of people have touched that day and people are closer than 6 feet to you all the time.”

Her husband, Peter, reached out to three professors from the departments that do not offer online classes and only two out of the three have responded. The two professors agreed to make individual exceptions for him to access the class remotely.

Polhill recognizes the risks of her husband going to campus if he has to. “He will be cautious, of course, but this is a situation where you, unfortunately, have to rely on others to do their part.” 

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