Becca is a Psychologist at R.I. Hospital in a partial hospital program for children. She sees the children in person five days a week, and interacts with their families virtually. There’s lots of stress, and an exposure risk. Becca does wear PPE. She sees the children 5 days a week from morning until late afternoon. There are screening questions for the children, when they arrive, but one doesn’t know what the children’s exposure might have been evenings and weekends.
Becca and her dad, a physician, have been vaccinated. Her mom, who has several health concerns, is not yet vaccinated. Becca is a single mom who lives with her 3 year old son, and her parents live with her as well. She is very concerned about keeping her mom and child safe. There are day care and baby sitter issues, which add to the stress and hassle.
Becca is grateful to have a job, but there hasn’t been a break. She feels lucky to have support at home. Becca tries to keep things in perspective. In her off time, she’s been taking care of various home projects, and to try to stay balanced she enjoys doing outside stuff with her son, exploring new trails in RI, and walking on the beach.
One of Becca’s greatest concerns is getting her mom vaccinated. Becca turned 40 last March. She had big plans to celebrate that birthday in Ogunquit, Maine with her best friend. That celebration has been postponed because of the pandemic. She’s looking forward to being able to go out to eat, or to the movies again.
Leah is a guidance counsellor in the Providence School System. She teaches at Mt. Pleasant High School. The job in and of itself is very difficult. In Providence there were many problems to deal with even before Covid, such as poverty, poor attendance, students not interested in doing the work, and English as a second language. Many kids are disengaged, so don’t score well on standardized tests. Of course the teachers get blamed.
Providence has a very high rate of Covid. Leah helps students pick their classes. She helps them with college applications, and is there to discuss student’s worries and concerns. There’s constant stress. Some kids don’t wear their masks correctly. That is also true for some of the teachers.
Each classroom has been given Hepa Filters to help sanitize the air. The teachers were never instructed in how to use them. There is a button that needs to be pushed in order for the filter to sanitize the air, otherwise you’re just circulating the air in the room. Leah finds herself going from classroom to classroom to make sure that button has been pushed, and that the filter is placed properly.
Staying positive is hard! A lot of the older students have jobs, either because they need to or they like to earn the extra pocket money. Once they feel the money, they’re less interested in school. It’s difficult to get them to understand, that in order to attain a better life situation, it’s important to complete their education.
Leah experiences hope from those students who get it, and do the work and achieve. Those are the students that keep her going.
Leah tries to find a “silver lining” in the present situation. It causes her to reconsider what’s important.
At home, before Covid, Leah was driving her boys to various activities. It seemed like she was running in all directions. Because of Covid many activities have been cancelled. Life is less hectic. It’s good to be able to get together on Zoom. They now have a Lab puppy.
Sue teaches English and Drama as Literature at RIC and is chair of the Curriculum Committee. At present, Sue is teaching all classes virtually. This is much more time consuming. It is also more challenging to keep students interested and motivated. Last spring there Sue had three classes that added up to 80 students, with 60 of these in two separate Intro to Literature classes. Fifteen students over the three classes never completed the work and failed the class. This semester she is only teaching 50 students in two different classes, which she hopes is more manageable.
Sue finds that when classes are in session, she’s actually on the computer from 8 A.M. until late in the day. That length of time on the computer is causing neck pain. Sue tries to minimize that by trying to change her posture as she works. The students submit all their work, including essays online. Then Sue makes comments and corrections and sends all the work back. The course is run through a learning management system called BlackBoard, which contains all the assignments and course materials for the students to access, and also allows her to run online Discussion forums, which are a bit like a blog. Sue has to prepare a variety of questions for these discussion groups, and it takes a lot of time to just set these up, and the instructions must be incredibly precise to guide the students. Everyone in the class has to contribute a number of entries to these discussion groups. It’s very different from the give and take conversations that can go on in a classroom setting. Sue is normally a hands-on teacher. In this virtual setting, Sue works hard to keep the students engaged. Learning in this venue is more of a struggle for the students, too. Sue can sense when a student’s enthusiasm ebbs, so she must come up with a method that will spike the student’s interest and get them back onboard. Sue is a very supportive and enthusiastic teacher, thus finds the current situation very stressful.
In addition to the challenges brought about by the pandemic and teaching virtually, there are budget shortfalls that affect everything. Some programs are in danger of being deleted, and there are fears of future layoffs. There used to be 450 English majors at RIC, but those numbers are currently way down to less than 200, not just because of the pandemic, but because of a shift toward students preferring to take STEM subjects. Because of the budget restrictions there has been a hiring freeze so they cannot rehire when a faculty member leaves, which has led to the department losing two of their five faculty who teach the usually popular creative writing courses. The department recently launched a new major concentration in Professional Writing, but it has not been sufficiently advertised to attract many new students.
Sue is grateful that she still has students, and she’s getting good feedback from them on how the courses are being run. But she’s looking forward to being back in the classroom, and also to being able to meet up with family, friends, and colleagues in person. To relax, Sue walks her dog, preferably taking walks in natural surroundings, and does yoga stretches.
Sue hopes that the vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel and hopes that enough individuals take the vaccine so that she can get back to face-to-face teaching in the fall. Another positive is, because of mask wearing and social distancing, she hasn’t had a cold all winter.
Harvey is an Optometrist in Cranston, RI. He opened his practice 43 years ago. In November of 2019 he took on a partner. He says that it’s been very bad recently. Several times over the past couple of weeks, Harvey has received calls alerting him that patients, he had recently seen, had tested positive for Covid. Even though he’s wearing full PPE when treating patients, he followed those calls by getting himself tested. So far he’s had 7 tests. Fortunately his tests continue to come back negative. At first he and his partner added a shield to their full PPE, but they soon found out that one can’t really see into a patient’s eye wearing a shield.
When a patient arrives for his or her appointment, they wait in their automobiles until they’re called to come in. People no longer wait in the waiting room. Recently a patient, who was being seen for a medical eye problem, informed Harvey at the end of the visit, that he had tested positive for covid-19 three days earlier. In spite of the fact that a screening was done when he made the appointment, and again when he arrived and called from the car. We have to rely on our patient’s honesty. It’s been very frustrating.
After getting news about the pandemic, Harvey and his partner closed the office between March 13 and March 16, 2020. His partner came back on June 1, 2020 and got the office set up following Covid protocols. Harvey returned during the first week of July. He works two days a week and his business partner works two days a week.
It’s been stressful and challenging! The toughest part for Harvey was not working for four months. He loves what he does. He finds it very difficult not to shake hands with people, and not be able to hug his patients that he’s known for years.
He’s looking forward to traveling again to see his sons and their families in person. Interacting with his grandchildren on Facetime and/or Zoom is just not the same as being with them. He’s also looking forward to travel to Aruba-just to relax, and to play some golf, and be able to eat out again. Harvey is hoping that by mid-summer enough people will have been vaccinated for things to get closer to normal.
Harvey feels fortunate to be busy. Harvey’s best friend has been struggling with one ailment after the other. That news and the pandemic have made him realize that good health is everything! He’s optimistic that things will get better.
David Wasser teaches Technology to 6th grade students, and a Robotics elective in the high school at Moses Brown. He also coaches the Robotics teams in both the Middle School and High School.
At first teaching under the new guidelines, issued because of Covid, was quite challenging. It’s gotten much better, and is going very well. The students are coming to school. They must wear masks and be socially distanced. The middle school offers grades 6, 7 and 8. The children belong to a pod. There are 4 or 5 pods per grade with 13 or 14 kids per pod. The children in the middle school stay in the same room and the various teachers come to them. The desks are 3 feet apart and have shields. The windows are partly open. Hepa filters have been installed into the ventilation system, there are air ionizers in each classroom, and hand sanitizer is available.
Teaching is more difficult. The teachers must stay at the front of the room and not walk up and down the aisles or intermingle with the students. So, it’s harder to build close relationships with the students. Most of these students have been attending Moses Brown for several years, thus know each other. However, if a new student enters the class, the barriers that have been put in place make it very difficult for the new student to get to know his or her classmates. Each pod of 13 or 14 students is in a different room, so there’s a loss of intimacy.
None of the students in the Middle School have gotten sick from Covid. There may have been a very small number of situations where students, who may have been a close contact of a positive case, have been asked to quarantine out of an abundance of caution. The students have an App on their phones with a check list that they must fill out every morning in order to attend school. If they have any Covid symptoms or possible covid exposure, they’re not allowed to come into the school, and can then attend virtually.
Initially, one of the big stresses for David was that he had to rethink and reconstruct his approach to teaching a subject, that he’s taught for several years, in order to comply with the new reality. Some students are learning virtually. As David faces the class, the virtual learners are joining the class on a camera behind his head. David has to remember to include the virtually learning students.
David feels very fortunate to be teaching at a school that has the necessary resources to enable this new reality. There’s a big touch screen, and a special conference camera that can turn 360 degrees. The camera is sound sensitive and turns to the person who is talking, so the virtual learners can see their classmates.
The current set up makes it difficult for David to interact with his colleagues. Each grade is on a separate floor. They’re no longer eating in the cafeteria. If it’s not too cold they eat lunch outdoors which is followed by recess. If it’s too cold the students eat in the classroom. The children are not allowed to talk while they’re eating inside, so David puts a Bob Ross film onto the screen while they’re eating. The children are so fascinated and watch so intently that they remain quiet.
The light at the end of the tunnel is the vaccine. David hopes that things will be better by the fall.
To destress David plays music and connects with friends outside wearing masks and socially distancing. David feels very fortunate to be able to interact with his students face to face, which in and of itself is spirit lifting.
Keith Schoen is a Veterinarian. They’ve had to make changes in the office to comply with the Covid protocol. Because of the pandemic, some of the Veterinarian Hospitals have closed down, and some are under staffed, because of Covid-19. So, Keith’s practice has seen a huge increase in the number of people bringing in their pets.
Keith has changed the intake procedure to Curbside Care, which means that all intake info must be obtained via phone before the pet can be brought in. Then a staff member goes to the curbside and fetches the pet. This new way of doing business plus the uptick of patients has increased time on the telephone and caused a need for additional staff. Since last March Keith has added an additional doctor and 6 additional nurses. The owners are not allowed into the building with their pet, unless the pet needs to be put down.
The new reality has caused more work and more stress. Through it all Keith is dedicated to continue his practice with good quality of care, compassion and customer service. He has never lost hope, and believes that things could always be worse. He just keeps going day to day.
Keith is looking forward to being able to go on vacation, and spend more time with his family.
Melissa Pezza is a dentist in Providence, RI. where the number of covid-19 cases has dramatically increased. Melissa stopped working from March, 2020 to August, 2020. That was such an uncertain time. We had no idea how the virus was spreading, and initially had no guidance from the Health Department. She’s now back to work, and so appreciative for all those who carried on while she took a break! She and the office staff wear full PPE, and follow covid-19 protocol. The office allows a few patients in at a time. They must be wearing masks to enter. The patients fill out a questionnaire and get a temperature check. There are more stresses. It isn’t easy, but they’re getting by.
Before the dental work begins, the patients are instructed to rinse with a hydrogen peroxide solution. When Melissa is working on patients they have their masks off, which is stressful in and of itself. She’s looking forward to being able to practice dentistry wearing a surgical mask, gloves, gown and shield without the need to wear N-95 masks.
Knowing that she’s helping people keeps her going. She fears that the extra precautions will be in place until the end of 2021. The ongoing vaccination program gives Melissa hope.
At home there’s the extra stress of worrying about her children, her mom, and other family members. To unwind and relax, Melissa likes to read, watch TV, spend time with her children, play tennis, exercise and take walks in nature. She’s just going on day to day.