When the coronavirus forced Buffalo State College to shutter most of the campus last spring, Weigel Wellness Center health practitioners and the adjoining Counseling Center staff members continued to see students remotely.
As the campus cautiously transitions into a hybrid model for classes this fall, remote appointments will continue to be available to students experiencing physical or mental distress. At Weigel, which is staffed by nurse practitioners, a physician, and nurses, students can also schedule in-person appointments free of charge for a range of services during business hours, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The center will not take walk-in appointments.
The Counseling Center, meanwhile, will offer all its services remotely.
Rock Doyle, assistant vice president for health and wellness and Weigel director, said students responded well to telehealth appointments over the spring and summer. In fact, appointments at the Counseling Center have increased more than 5 percent from this time last year.
Charlene Vetter, clinical manager in the Counseling Center, said, “Many students who had to physically leave campus after the shutdown were glad that they could continue to access counseling and be supported through the additional challenges they were facing to complete their semester.”
She noted that 224 students scheduled 1,115 telehealth appointments since March 13. And missed appointments decreased by 50 percent compared with the same period last year.
Vetter and Doyle are in the process of planning group counseling in a virtual format as an additional option for students.
“We are working to select the most appropriate HIPAA-compliant, electronic platform to deliver group services,” Vetter said.
The center will also offer virtual workshops this fall. Topics include Adjusting to Distance Learning, Coping with Grief, and Supporting Communities of Color. Students also can access online trainings and virtual fitness classes, such as yoga, during the fall semester.
COVID Testing and Prevention
Every day this fall when students come to campus, they will need to complete a health monitoring questionnaire online. The questions gauge students’ health and are the same ones faculty and staff must answer each day they come to campus.
If students experience coronavirus symptoms, they can make an appointment for a COVID-19 test at Weigel. The center’s test kits will show results within 15 minutes, as opposed to the five to seven days of most testing facilities.
“Doing testing this way will help us with quarantine, isolation, and contract tracing, so we can do all of these things immediately,” Doyle said, adding one caveat—the accuracy rate is around 83 percent.
“We will react immediately if a student receives a positive result and conduct or order a confirmation test if it’s a negative,” he said. “It’s an important part of the dual-testing procedure.”
Students will be provided a PPE kit—including reusable face coverings, sanitizer, a sanitary key, disinfecting wipes, and a hand sanitation card.
Students who test positive will be housed in the campus’s North Wing, which has been designated as an isolation residence hall. Weigel would also notify the Dean of Students Office, the Residence Life Office, and the Erie County Department of Health.
Additional campus updates and information about the coronavirus pandemic are also available online.
Appointments at Weigel are free for students; however, any outside medical tests, including COVID-19 tests, require proof of insurance.
To keep from contracting the virus, Doyle emphasized that students should follow all campus safety protocols, which include wearing a mask or face covering at all times and maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet from other people. Resident students, he said, should be sure to bring extra masks, thermometers, cold and flu medicine, and a copy of their health insurance card to campus.
While Weigel is now operating Monday through Friday, Doyle said, they are working toward hiring an additional nurse who could handle some weekend appointments, both in-person and virtual.
“One of the main reasons for having a weekend presence,” he said, “is that we want to support students living in quarantine or isolation and to answer questions from other residential students who may suspect they have COVID symptoms or other health issues.”
To reach the Weigel Wellness Center, call (716) 878-6711 or visit the website.
For counseling services, call (716) 878-4436 or visit the Counseling Center website.
Photo by Bruce Fox, Campus Photographer