BYU professors, students discuss navigating illness in a post-covid world

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Students walk on campus with masks on. With winter sickness setting in, professors and students are sharing suggestions on how students can navigate illness in a post-COVID-19 world. (BYU Photo/Nate Edwards)

With winter sickness setting in, professors and students are sharing suggestions on how students can navigate illness in a post-COVID-19 world.

Emma Jacob, a senior studying nursing at BYU, said protocol for illness is different this year than in previous years because people are more aware. She said the pandemic created some good health habits. 

“Notice how all the hand sanitizer stands that were put up during the pandemic are still around,” Jacob said. “People in general are more consistent with doing the little hygienic things.”

Jacob said especially at a prestigious school like BYU, there can be pressure to come to school regardless of being sick. She said it is important to always regard vulnerable populations that can easily get sick and even friends who simply do not want to get sick. 

“I would encourage students to talk with their professors when they’re sick to work something out,” Jacob said. “Most professors will work with students — especially post-pandemic, with working and studying from home being more common.”

BYU Department of Psychology professor Chelsea Romney said she handles student illness on a personal basis.

“Overall I feel like I’ve become more lenient in general (with) illness-related absence because I don’t want anyone bringing anything to class and spreading it,” Romney said.

Mandy Christensen, an exercise science professor, said she is not handling illness differently from how she did during the pandemic.

“If students are sick, I allow them to make up missed assignments,” Christensen said. “I also will record the lecture for them by advance request.”

Christensen said illness is a normal part of life. She said students should stay home and get better if they are feverish and contagious. 

If students are sick, they should stay home and get better, get lots of Vitamin C and make sure they communicate with their teachers. BYU exercise science professor said students should stay home especially if they are feverish and contagious. (Made in Canva by Emily Morford)

Christensen said students should try to prevent illness by washing their hands often and thoroughly, getting plenty of sleep, eating well and exercising. 

“(These things) can help you avoid getting sick,” Christensen said. “But also, when you do get sick, the healthier you are overall, the better you will fare.”

Jacob, like Christensen, said students should practice the hygiene basics to avoid getting sick, including washing hands, getting enough sleep and eating healthy foods. 

“Sometimes having a healthy diet as a college student is difficult with cost and time,” Jacob said. “An easy thing students can do is take a daily vitamin or drink a glass of orange juice to keep up on that Vitamin C!”

To prevent illness, students should wash their hands, get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet and exercise. Jacob suggested taking a multivitamin or drinking orange juice if a healthy diet seems unattainable. (Made in Canva by Emily Morford)

In regard to whether people should still take COVID-19 seriously, Jacob said as with any other illness, it is important to take care of oneself and be considerate of others. 

“There are lots of opinions regarding COVID policies,” Jacob said. “The best thing to do is stay up to date on the research and make an informed decision.”

Jacob said a great resource to turn to for current guidelines is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Information on commonly-asked questions about vaccines can be found on their website.

Jacob said hospitals this year are keenly aware of the predictions for how severe Respiratory Syncytial Virus infections will be this year. She said RSV is a respiratory virus that leads to lots of hospitalizations each year.

According to the CDC, each year. RSV leads to:

  • “2.1 million outpatient (non-hospitalization) visits among children younger than five years old.
  • 58,000-80,000 hospitalizations among children younger than five years old.
  • 60,000-120,000 hospitalizations among adults 65 years and older.
  • 6,000-10,000 deaths among adults 65 years and older.
  • 100–300 deaths in children younger than five years old.”

“This year with less public Covid precautions (RSV) is expected to hit hard,” Jacob said. “While most BYU students wouldn’t be considered a vulnerable population, practically every student goes home for the holidays and will have contact with vulnerable people.” 

Jacob said because of this, it is important to routinely wash hands, wear a mask when sick and be mindful of others.

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