Campus Community / People of SU

Health and Safety Matters

Written by Allison Nitch

January 11, 2021

Joshua Halbert and Tara Hicks

Image credit: Yosef Chaim Kalinko

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Joshua Halbert, assistant director for Public Safety, and Tara Hicks, ARNP, director of the Student Health Center and a nurse practitioner, are helping to keep the campus community safe and healthy during COVID-19.

Ahead of the start of the fall quarter in September, the President’s Reopening Task Force announced the creation of the COVID-19 Containment and Prevention Working Group (C-CAP). Among this group are Joshua Halbert, assistant director for Public Safety, and Tara Hicks, ARNP, director of the Student Health Center and a nurse practitioner. They offer insights as C-CAP co-chairs, along with key points about staying healthy and grounded as the pandemic continues into the winter months.

What was your role in establishing best practices for the Safe Start Plan (SSP)?

Halbert: The development of the SSP was one of the most complex projects that I have ever been a part of. So many outstanding colleagues from all over the university worked incredibly hard to get us to where we are today. ... My primary contributions were in the development and implementation of the Safe Start Health Check, case investigation and contact tracing processes, quarantine/isolation processes and the online dashboard that reports those figures.

Hicks: Seattle U formed multidisciplinary groups to work on every aspect of the SSP and my primary focus was the Public Health group. We established best practice based on public health guidelines and recommendations, as well as working with an infectious disease physician consultant. In addition, we reviewed recommendations from professional organizations for health care and higher education.

What happens if someone doesn’t pass the required screening?

Hicks: The Safe Start Health Check is an effective tool created by Joshua. By SU creating our own screening questionnaire, we can adjust and modify the questions and logic to reflect current practices and guidelines. If someone doesn’t pass the required screening, they will receive an email that directs them to not come to campus, as well as provide recommendations such as seeking medical care and/or COVID-19 testing.

As the world continues to deal with COVID-19 and SU begins winter quarter, what main points do you want to drive home for the campus community?

Halbert: Take the Safe Start Health Check daily and follow the guidance it provides. ... Don’t wait to report symptoms. This is key to keeping the campus community safe and healthy. It is important to remember that we have higher-risk populations in our campus community. If you are asked to stay home, please do so out of care for yourself and others.

Hicks: Winter means we spend more time indoors, which increases the risk of COVID transmission. We need to continue following health and safety recommendations that we know have been effective: face coverings, physical distancing and good hand washing. In addition, I strongly recommend flu shots for everyone this year.

While many colleges and universities decided to open campuses this fall, Seattle U opted primarily for online instruction to proactively limit the spread of COVID-19. In your opinion, how does this approach reflect our Jesuit values?

Halbert: ... The university demonstrated that it could deliver a world-class education in a virtual format. Keeping with this model for now and the near future prioritizes the well-being of our community and our families without sacrificing quality of education.

Hicks: Throughout all of the return to campus decisions I have been a part of, cura personalis, or care for the whole person, has been at the core. To look after the physical well-being of our campus community, we needed to decrease risk of infection with COVID-19. And the best way to decrease risk of infection is to decrease the amount of face-to-face interactions on campus.

As a health professional, how do you handle the uncertainty that comes with existing during a pandemic?

Hicks: I focus on what I do know in this moment and what I can do. The more grounded I keep myself, the easier it is to manage what is happening and plan for a response in the future instead of worrying about it.

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