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How Juniata is thriving during the pandemic

Theo Weinberger ’21, Multi-Sport Athlete

How is it possible that at Juniata, despite CoVID restrictions, I’m allowed to compete in the annual Bailey Oratorical speech contest in person? I get to eat food at Baker celebrating Mardi Gras at a table with four of my friends?  Juniata students are in the fortunate position of having found a new normal during the CoVid19 public health crisis while keeping our on-campus students’ test positivity rate– our rate of infection –just around 1%. Through the extraordinary performance by our school, faculty, and most importantly, our students, we’ve been able to enjoy what many other colleges cannot at this time.

Of course, if your school is like most high schools or colleges across the U.S., these privileges may seem unbelievable for you.  Dining, sports, being with friends? The option for in-person classes that maintain the quality of education that has been more familiar and effective than SOME online classes have been for many? How is it possible?

Juniata’s commitment to safety first has allowed us many of these luxuries. We’ve implemented three big contributors, as I like to call them, that give us our success in handling the Pandemic and provide us with the privileges we now enjoy. Our campus “bubble”, our rigorous testing, and our emphasis on PPE have equipped our campus for success.

Some of Juniata’s Covid swag, cool right?

If you know anything about Juniata, you know we’re a small town school. Against CoVid, this perk has helped us like no other. The Juniata “bubble”, our small campus community, allows us to both intermingle and stay safe during CoVid19. Tools like our daily surveys, which analyze whether we’re feeling symptomatic, and QR codes that we use to sign in to various public spaces have contributed to our “bubble” of safety. If a student tested positive and I live in the same dorm or take the same class as them, I would be one of the first people to know about it. With such a small student body, we perform thorough contact tracing and nip possible outbreaks in the bud before they begin to spread. I feel a sense of security that I’ll know right away if I’m a possible contact, especially since Juniata has protocols in place to help students who need to quarantine get their meals and attend classes while awaiting test results

An enclosed environment on its own isn’t enough though.That’s why our testing center is such a blessing for us. At the start of the pandemic, our college converted our Sill Business Incubator building into a fully functioning testing center. For now, instead of pumping out startups, this building keeps our on-campus operations afloat by rapidly processing the results of our antigen and PCR testing. Oftentimes when I and the hundreds of other students living on campus make the short walk to the quad to get our test collected, we’ll know our results the same day!

The perks of Juniata show in our success with the virus in comparison to other schools. When I hear about my friends’ experiences at big schools like Penn State or colleges back home in California, they note that they often have to fight for a test and may not know their results for days. In comparison, since August we’ve conducted over 10,000 tests – enough to test every student FIVE TIMES! On campus there’s also a heavy emphasis on mask-wearing and ample supplies of protective gear, like hand sanitizer and sanitizing spray. It’s very comforting to see students exiting everywhere, from the gym, to the bathroom, to the library, everywhere with masks on. No matter where I find myself in my daily routine at Juniata, there’s always the vibe that we’re all united in the incredible effort to keep our vibrant community working. 

Wings up, and masks on Eagles!