Librarian providing remote services

From Anna Karwowski ’14

I am the youth services lead at the McHenry Public Library in McHenry, Ill. My team and I have jumped into virtual programming with both feet, developing database tutorials, storytimes, crafts and more on both Zoom and our YouTube page. We are also working hard to transition our summer reading onto Beanstack, an online platform that allows patrons to log minutes read with incentives like gift card drawings and a free book from the Friends of the Library. As the school liaison, I am in direct communication with area teachers and librarians and forwarding them information about services such as our temporary e-library card, our emergency food service during closure, and more. To see what else we are doing, follow us on Facebook or check out our YouTube page.

And, on a personal note, I have sewed about 25 masks for friends and family who need them and have more requests for masks incoming!

Take the virus seriously

Knox reached out to some of our graduates who are working in the healthcare industry for their perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic.

From Dr. Adam Nader ’07
I currently live in Miami, Florida, and am employed in a private practice cardiology group. I currently see patients in the office and in the hospital.

Tell us about your work, your duties and responsibilities, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have been involved in the care of COVID-19 patients in both settings. Prior to the pandemic, I would perform outpatient clinical cardiovascular services which include clinical risk assessment, echocardiogram (both non-invasive and invasive echocardiogram studies), stress test, electrocardiogram interpretation as well as inpatient care of patients with cardiovascular disease and illnesses.

Please help the vulnerable, those in the healthcare field, and society at large by staying home.

Has the pandemic changed your role at work, and if so, how?
The pandemic has changed the landscape of my profession. In addition to taking care of COVID-19 patients, the pandemic has caused us to change the method of which we interact with our patients. This has led to the usage of telemedicine widespread for the first time (previously only used for rural medical practice). I find myself engaging in this method frequently now instead of personal face to face interaction with my patients. Also in the hospital, the constant use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfecting medical equipment has become even greater of a necessity than it was before.

The pandemic has also led me and others in my profession and field to be concerned and disappointed at the availability of PPE. This is more of a concern for certain members of the healthcare field than others, of course, but it is distressing to feel that my colleagues are being placed on the lines without adequate means to protect themselves from a highly contagious virus. The Washington Post reported to date 9,000 members of the healthcare profession have been infected from COVID-19.

What is a fact and/or piece of advice you can offer to people to help them understand what is happening and how they should respond to maintain their health as well as they can?
My biggest piece of advice for people is to take this virus seriously. It can affect the young and old and you can even spread it without realizing it to a vulnerable person. Handwashing, avoiding touching your face, social distancing, and wearing facial covering is extremely important during these times. Please help the vulnerable, those in the healthcare field, and society at large by staying home.

I am truly looking forward to the day when I do not have to worry about bringing the virus home to my family.

Long-term commitment to fighting the virus

Knox reached out to some of our graduates who are working in the healthcare industry for their perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sam Jarvis ’09 works in public health/emergency preparednessas a community health manager.

I live in Iowa City and work at Johnson County Public Health (the county Health Department).

Tell us about your work, your duties and responsibilities, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I’m the community health manager and oversee several programs which include tobacco cessation and prevention, integrated testing (for Hepatitis C and HIV), communicable disease prevention (which includes tuberculosis), emergency preparedness, employee wellness, and the department’s community health needs assessment. My role is primarily administrative. Prior to my current role, I was the department’s emergency preparedness planner.

Has the pandemic changed your role at work, and if so, how?
Yes, and dramatically. The community health division has our communicable disease and emergency preparedness program, so we’re directly engaged in the response. As a health department, our director is the incident commander for the county response which involves coordinating with several dozen agencies. Our emergency management agency has opened their emergency operations center seven days a week and is coordinating a lot of other operations and logistics as well. It’s a key player in this.

My ad hoc emergency response role is liaison officer, and was operations section chief until we expanded. Much of our work in the division is health education and outreach. With social (physical) distancing mitigation measures in place and county offices closed to the public, that has altered. Many of my coworkers have shifted their duties to assist with the response either to perform disease investigations, collaborate on public information projects, or a variety of other tasks to support the response. Government agencies work a 40-hour week Monday through Friday typically, but since our first case, there’s a good amount of us directly engaged, putting in a bit more hours and working various shifts, or adjusted schedules, and through weekends. It’s been necessary to stay on top of the workload and the changes either in disaster declarations or state or federal guidance.  

We have scheduled meetings internally and externally that are solely dedicated to the response and much of what goes on in those meetings throughout the day drives our schedules. It’s always difficult to describe in detail what “coordination” is, but keeping everyone up-to-date and on the same page when making decisions takes time.

More broadly, how is the pandemic affecting what you see at work on a regular basis, e.g., employee workloads, the number of patients seeking help?
We make contact with every positive case and conduct the investigation and contact tracing. Since there’s evidence of community transmission in Iowa (and everywhere in the United States) we know there are lot of ill persons who don’t get tested, but those that do and, especially as we see more testing options become available, we see more cases, and that directly impacts our workload. When mass testing at a facility due to an outbreak occurs and those persons are residents of our jurisdiction, that impacts our workload, but that’s also why we’ve onboarded other internal staff to assist.

My day usually consisted of meeting with other programmatic staff and community partners in the various programs I mentioned before and project planning, but now it is entirely devoted to the COVID-19 response. While we’re managing the issues that arise during the week we also plan for next steps, but it’s a bit difficult to predict when something like this hasn’t happened before.

Public health primarily plays the role of strategist or “connector and convener,” so while we don’t directly treat patients we coordinate with many agencies that do direct services.

What is a fact and/or piece of advice you can offer to people to help them understand what is happening and how they should respond to maintain their health as well as they can?
Be patient. Most understand the importance of distancing, hand hygiene, and cough etiquette, but we’ve got to keep that up. Our efforts to fight this need to be thought of as long-term commitments and that becomes more difficult every day many of us are at home. Physical distancing and stay-at-home orders have had a dramatic impact on everyone, but especially teachers, caregivers, and families without daycare, so keep them in mind too.  Humans are social and to tell everyone to stay physically apart is hard so reach out to friends and family and often. COVID-19 is a part of our lives now and its going to be difficult to adjust to, but we’re all in this together.

Is there any way in which your Knox education has helped you adapt to the current moment?
I was biochemistry major so having that background helps tremendously. Public health is a broad interdisciplinary field, but having a strong science foundation is important, at least when dealing with communicable disease.

Another major part of Knox that carries with me as a professional was the experience taking Intro to Gender and Women Studies with Dr. Kelly Shaw. Developing and continuing to develop that perspective has been crucial to being a thoughtful public health and emergency preparedness professional.

What are you looking forward to once life returns to something more closely resembling “normal”?
Going out to dinner with my spouse, Dr. Kate Jarvis ’12–it’s one of our favorite things to do here in Iowa City.

Visiting friends from Knox–I keep in touch with a lot of classmates and guys from the fraternity.

Visiting home in Galesburg and cruising the strip as I did in high school.

People watching too … to sit and relax at an outdoor event and feel the energy would be nice.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Take time to unplug from the news and social media and take time for yourself. This disruption and shift in daily life is stressful if not traumatic, so go easy on yourself and others. The weather is getting nicer in the Midwest, so I’ve been running here in Iowa City. It’s certainly not the same as going for a run in Galesburg though.

Stories to get us through

From Laura Miller Dryda ’10

I am an editor-in-chief with a healthcare media company that connects hospital executives and physicians to share information during this challenging time.

Personally, I am continuing my creative writing and organizing virtual readings for authors to share their work during this time when we aren’t able to gather in coffee shops, book stores or conventions. Hopefully, the stories shared will also bring joy to people in a tough place economically and help us come together, as a good story always has.

If anyone would like to participate as an author or attendee to the virtual readings, contact me and I’ll add you to the events!

If you give a librarian a ukulele …

From Amy Schardein ’98

I’m a children’s librarian in Covington, Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati. While the library is closed, we are programming on social media. I’m doing storytime on Facebook Live three times a week.

I was surprised at how emotional I felt during the first session. There were the names of families I know and see weekly plus many more, and then so many more from the wider community. I found I was nervous and relieved that my hands knew how to play the ukulele through nerves I have not felt doing storytime for years.

After the first session, parents sent photos of their children watching–some are gleeful but most seem to be comforted—calmed by some familiarity. Parents are watching even when their kids are not. Distant family members are tuning in.

Storytime has always been my strongest skill at work. I get to use all of my teaching skills while implementing the improv skills I learned with my friends in college. Now, I’m realizing what a touchstone it is for me. Three times a week, in between homeschooling the children and caring for our home, I make myself decent and make my community feel a little better. I’m also making myself feel better.

You can find my storytimes at the Kenton County Public Library Facebook page.

Shop local

From Marcy Huggard ’04

Shopping local–I need to send thank-you cards to committee members for a conference that we won’t get to hold, so I bought them online from my favorite local stationary store. I’m sending friends and family care packages with treats and books from my favorite local gift stores. We’re getting lunch delivered from our favorite local restaurants. Trying to do my part economically since our jobs are not being adversely affected by having to work from home.

Online teaching

From Courtney Wiles Taylor ’02

As a teacher, it’s been rough trying to go to online or distance learning especially for my kindergarten class. But parents have been really responsive. We communicate through an app called Class Dojo. I have been able to create a Google Classroom and have been successful in having some students join.

I teach in Las Vegas in a Title I school that provides free breakfast and lunch for all students. Our school district is the 5th largest in the country. We were able to provide 300,000 out of our 320,000 with free food at 20 high school locations, as well as free distance learning opportunity weekly packets. This is accessible for all students, especially because many don’t have computers or tablets, or online connectivity.

It’s been wonderful to receive photos of student & their work from parents. I do daily read alouds and post them. I plan on calling students next week to check in & see if they learned their March sight words. My husband is the Title I PE assistant at my school and does one hour of custodial work. We are union & able to still get paid. We are keeping busy with online learning.

The governor of Nevada did the same as governor of Illinois: only essential places are open. Hopefully people will understand the severity of this virus and stay home or social distance themselves. Thank you for checking up on us. I am blessed to have a loving husband and coworkers. We meet on Google Hangouts for meetings and even Happy Hour yesterday after school hours.

Wishing you & everyone at Knox a safe journey ahead.

Coordinating volunteer efforts

From Sam Jarvis ’09

I’ve been doing a lot of coordination. We’re fortunate with Johnson County/Iowa City and so many non-profit and groups who want to volunteer.

Our United Way is leading the effort for volunteer management and helping other non-profits that are in the food security space–Shelter House, for persons experiencing homelessness, is decreasing their in-house population and coordinating with our CVB to house ill persons (not positive), just so they can socially distance as best as possible. Hotels have been very accommodating since the traffic is low, so they’re taking in healthcare workers so that they don’t take anything back to their family and or other quarantined individuals.

The city is following the trend of putting up hearts around the community as well–we had a mental health professional at one of the press conferences too, to encourage people to be mindful of their mental/emotional health–we’re hosting a long-term care facility call as well to check in with those folks to make sure their needs are met.