Commencement continues at St. Norbert

By | May 15, 2009

“Right now, they are not saying we should cancel activities,” said Osling-Sisay on May 12. “They are saying those who feel ill or those with underlying conditions should stay away from large gatherings. So we are continuing college practices as usual.”

However, she added, school officials are monitoring the situation daily and “we will act accordingly.”

As of May 12, Wisconsin had 437 confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu. Of the 50 states, only Illinois had more cases at 554. In northeast Wisconsin, the only county with confirmed cases of swine flu was Brown County, with six cases confirmed as of May 11. At least 35 other probable cases were being tested.

At St. Norbert, where it is finals week, the college has activated its emergency plans, which include daily updates on its Web site, http://www.snc.edu/health/bulletins/h1n1, extended hours at the campus Health and Wellness Services, and extra cleaning – beyond CDC recommendations – in public areas.

Osling-Sisay said that, along with formal information channels, her department has informal ways to communicate with students and staff.

“We have met with the hall directors in residence halls,” she said. “They, in turn, have spoken to students leaders. They are taking care of one another.”

The dean said all these efforts have “helped a lot to dispel misinformation that was out there. People feel reassured that we have a plan.”

She credits much of that plan to Barb Bloomer, director of Health and Wellness Services, who served on the Governor’s Task force on Campus Safety. Bloomer brought back a lot of recommendations on emergency preparedness that the college immediately put into effect about two years ago.

Osling-Sisay said she gives the Health and Wellness staff “a lot of credit for saying, ‘Look, we may need to huddle here.’ So we were ahead of the game” when the first H1N1 case was reported on campus last week.

Students who contract the flu have the option of going home or staying on campus, where they are confined in an unspecified location. Faculty have made arrangements for them to make up any exams they miss.

“The idea is to keep the community safe,” Osling-Sisay said. For now, the cap and gown walk will go on as planned, but that might change before Sunday – if the health department recommends it.

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