That old Three Musketeers credo — “One for All and All for One” — might have its best application in the 21st century. After all, practicing COVID-19 safeguards in 2020 means doing so for both personal and community good. D’Artagnan would surely agree!
At Hope, that motto has been essentially at the heart of all that the college is doing to reopen campus safely to over 3000 students and hundreds of employees in a few short days. For the campus community to remain together this semester, it is going to take each individual committed to doing their part for all.
Of course, all of those efforts have real human stories and faces behind them.
So, what have some of our faculty and staff done to be Hope Ready headed into this school year? The Keeping Hope blog asked six Hope-ites some questions about what they have been doing and will do to keep Hope, and themselves, healthy in the days ahead.
They are: Henry Chen, Campus Safety officer; Dr. Marissa Doshi, associate professor of communication; Dr. John Jobson, associate dean of students; Dr. Benjamin Kopek, virologist and associate professor of biology; Jill Nelson, chaplain of small groups; and Dr. Leigh Sears, women’s soccer coach and associate professor of kinesiology.
When and where do you wear a mask?
Dr. Leigh Sears: Since being diagnosed with breast cancer in March as well as having surgery and recently finishing radiation, I wear a mask in every indoor public space I go into.
Henry Chen: I wear a mask whenever indoors and outdoors when social distancing isn’t available. It is important for me because of my job as well as for the safety of my parents who are both in the high-risk category due to both age as well as health concerns.
Dr. Marissa Doshi: I wear a mask in any shared indoor or outdoor spaces, except inside my home.
Dr. Ben Kopek: Whenever I am out and about around other people. I do not wear a mask when I am outside and can keep some distance between myself and others.
Jill Nelson: I wear my mask whenever I plan to go inside any buildings or plan to be on Hope’s campus. I’m happy to proceed with compassion and humility for the sake of others and for safety. I’ve started to collect masks that I think are cute.
Dr. John Jobson: I really try when in public indoor spaces. To me, it is a matter of respect for others. We (my wife and I) even keep a handkerchief and two rubber bands in each of our vehicles so that we can make a quick face covering if we forget to grab a regular face covering on our way out the door for the inevitable quick trip.
Besides your family, do you allow anyone else inside or around your home? If so, who and for what reason?
Sears: After being isolated from mid-March through May, we finally had a couple over for an outside dinner. We have done this a couple times as well as having hosted several alumnae from the soccer team for physically-distanced porch visits.
Chen: We have not allowed anyone besides my immediate family into our house yet. We will start “back-yard church” with a couple of select church families beginning in mid-August. We did have a backyard “Hamilton” viewing party on opening night in our backyard too!
Doshi: No one has visited, although we did need a plumber once and had an appliance delivered.
Kopek: We have mostly kept around family, but we have had small groups of friends over a few times.
What is your protocol when you do grocery shopping? Are you an in-person shopper or an online-shopper using a Shipt or Instacart service? Do you wipe down your groceries or no?
Sears: I have never enjoyed grocery shopping and am lucky enough to have a husband who does the shopping. Especially since my diagnosis though, I don’t even stop in to pick things up at large stores and just try to stay out of indoor public spaces as much as possible. I do know my husband always has hand sanitizer in the car and wipes in his pocket. He does wipe down the cart at the store, but we do not clean our groceries when he brings them home.
Chen: Before the executive order requiring masks indoors, my sister was the sole grocery shopper for our household and my parent’s household. Now that there is an executive order for wearing masks indoors and with many people following those orders, my wife Julie and I have both also gone to the grocery stores. We only wipe down groceries if we are going to use it immediately. Most groceries that can stay in the garage are left in the garage for a couple of days.
Kopek: In-person shopping. I have always thought grocery carts are about the most disgusting thing on the planet even before this. I am actually glad to see the increase in wiping down carts at stores. Why has this not been standard practice (before COVID-19)?
Jobson: My family (wife and two teenagers – one of whom will be a member of this year’s incoming class) has found a rhythm of in-person shopping every 2 weeks and supplementing that by using Crisp Country Acres Farm Store for fresh vegetables, fruits, milk and eggs. After doing the major shopping, we either store the items for a minimum of 72 hours prior to using the respective item or we wipe it down. The items that we get from Crisp, however, we tend to use immediately.
How about eating out? Do you take out or dine in? Or, do you make all of your own meals?
Chen: We have been using take-out throughout the pandemic, we choose restaurants that have good procedures in place for safety. We have not dined in or dined in outdoor spaces yet.
Doshi: We like cooking so we cook at home. We’ve certainly done take-out but haven’t eaten in a restaurant (or on a restaurant patio) since March.
Nelson: We mostly make our own meals, but do enjoy takeout occasionally (The Southerner in Saugatuck and Spice Boys Tacos in Holland are amazing!) We have also had a few outdoor special date nights with our kids. We appreciate restaurants and all the hard work they are doing to remain safe.
Kopek: We generally don’t eat out much in general. However, my wedding anniversary fell just after dining restrictions were lifted and my wife and I had a lovely meal at Linear in GR. We then went out with the kids a few days later and had a terrible experience at another restaurant. I feel bad for the struggling restaurants, but the in-person dining experience is not worth the stress and hassle for me now.
Jobson: Take-out on occasion but for the most part, we prepare our own meals. My daughter has taken to baking during the “coronacation” and I enjoy cooking (there was a stretch where my meat smoker was getting pretty consistent use – now it’s switched more to the grill). Part of the dine-in experience is the enjoyment of the conversation and the company with whom you are sharing the meal. At this point, it doesn’t feel at all possible.
What do you do when you get a haircut?
Sears: I had two COVID haircuts thanks to my husband. He did not quit his day job! I was finally able to get a proper haircut and the salon had the waiting room moved outside. I had to use hand sanitizer before entering, and I had to wear a mask the entire time.
Chen: I have started to cut my own hair as well as my son’s hair.
Doshi: Lol…what haircut? Honestly though, I’m not too bothered about my hair; I’ve had bangs since I was 16 and have had years to perfect the art of trimming them at home. Kudos to my husband, though, for entrusting me with his haircuts. He owns many caps!
Nelson: Ok, I’m pretty proud of this. During stay-at-home, I learned how to cut hair! To be clear, we still love our actual stylists, but in a pinch, I now know that I can cut my boys’ and my husband’s hair with the help of my Amazon order of fancy shears, YouTube videos and FaceTime tutorials from a friend who is a stylist. What an accomplishment! But happily, now that my salon is open, I’m relieved to be back in the hands of a professional. I wear a mask and since it is a small place in East Grand Rapids, I am the only one in there, and I love catching up with the man who has cut my hair for many, many years. At this time, he does not blow dry my hair. I leave with it wet.
Jobson: Have you seen my hair? I cut/shave my own!
What would you tell your students about attending events that could have big crowds, such as a rally or an off-campus party?
Sears: As harsh as this sounds – don’t’ do it. You feel invincible and therefore you choose to do what you want. In doing so, you may feel fine, but you have no idea if someone around you is compromised. That person could be in your dorm, your class, or even your professor. You may be an asymptomatic carrier who spreads this around your cottage, house, or team. So, for you to do what you want because wearing a mask or not being able to see 50 of your friends at the same time is inconvenient, we may lose what little athletic season — and on-campus academics — that we are trying to have. More important than athletics and academics though, I am more susceptible to getting sick and really cannot afford to have that happen with more appointments and testing in my near future.
Kopek: Just don’t, please! If you want to be at Hope, we all need to do our best to mitigate virus spread. At the very least, think of your grandma every time you consider attending a large gathering.
What precautions do you take in your home? In your office?
Sears: Our major precaution in the home is to not let anyone in. My husband took three weeks off of work in March and April and is now back to work. He now changes his clothes at work and showers immediately when he comes home. So far, I have only been to the office when no one else has been in and it has been just to pick things up. I probably won’t spend large amounts of time there in the fall.
Chen: In our home, we are a pod and so we are able to not wear masks indoors. If friends come to visit, we stay outside and in good social distance. At work for Campus Safety, we have been at the forefront throughout the pandemic, we never left campus and I have been following all of the guidelines given by the steering committee.
Jobson: At home, I have earned the nickname, “laundry thief” for my COVID-developed obsession with picking up any item of clothing and putting it in the washing machine (no matter how little it has been worn). Add to that my love of the scent of bleach and vacuum tracks, and you can begin to imagine what our house is like! I’ve only been back in the office since August 5. I’ll let you know after it’s been a little longer…
Besides Hope’s “spit” testing, have you been tested for the coronavirus? If so, describe the experience.
Chen: I have been tested twice for the coronavirus. Both tests were a nasal swab test and were at two different “drive-up” sites in Holland and Zeeland. The tests were quick but not comfortable because of the depth of the test swab inside your nasal cavity. At the time of my tests, the results were very fast, I was able to get my results by the next business day but I know that other tests and sites may take more time for results to be available. While awaiting my first test, I had to quarantine myself from my family as well as participate in the health department’s contact tracing program. My results were negative but I still participated in the contact tracing program for the 14 days since my original contact because the virus load may not present at a high level initially.
Nelson: I have been tested for COVID! I actually had unexpected emergency surgery (it ended up being just a minor, outpatient surgery) a few weeks ago and had to be tested. It honestly wasn’t the greatest experience, but I was so glad to know I was negative. I look forward to the nice and easy test that Hope is offering.
What are you optimistic about for the fall? What are you looking forward to?
Sears: I am looking forward to having students back as well as my student athletes. I am optimistic that Hope will provide a safe academic environment for their students. Even though it will look and feel different, many people have been working hard all summer to prepare to have students back.
Chen: I am thankful for the leadership of Hope College and the care and thoughtfulness that has led to Hope College’s decisions. I am so excited for the campus to have each student back on campus. I am optimistic that Hope College and our students can be an example to our community as well as to the nation that we are a beacon of Hope shining and leading the way as we face these challenges. I am so optimistic that Hope is the place to not only take on those challenges but to triumph over those challenges. I am thankful for the Physical Plant staff who have worked tirelessly to prepare the campus to welcome the campus community back to campus in a safe environment. Have I said that I am looking forward to having the student community back on campus? That is what I look forward to the most!
Doshi: I’m looking forward to meeting my students this fall. I’m always excited about learning together! I’m teaching my courses virtually but as someone who researches digital culture and has had to maintain family and friendship ties using technology for over a decade, I am not easily convinced that online interactions are inherently less authentic. I am approaching this fall as an opportunity to interact with my students via a new modality and hone online pedagogy. And of course, I’m looking forward to learning and experiencing this new form of campus community.
Nelson: I can’t wait to be back on campus with the amazing students, faculty and staff at Hope. They are brilliant, resilient, courageous, curious, creative, passionate, fun and full of HOPE. I look forward to continuing to lean into the beauty and gift of Scripture with students via Small Group Bible Studies. I’m eager to study the book of Acts with students and learn more about who God is and how He is working in our everyday lives. I love how I get to walk with students and encourage them. Things will be different at first…but I really believe that God has big plans for Hope for our students this fall!
Kopek: There is always such a fun energy when students return to campus. Even with the uncertainty surrounding the Fall semester I am sure there will be a lot of good energy. We are living through a momentous occasion in the history of the world that will be remembered for generations. I believe the resiliency developed through this and the shared experience will bring us closer together (just not physically:)) as a campus and community.
Jobson: The energy that comes with the start of the academic year – it has been way too long since we all have been together. Let’s get back to what we all love to do!