It has often been said, one of the worst mistakes a leader can make is to do too little in a time of crisis. While wearing a mask has been something I was hesitant to commit to due to my personal traumas with having my face covered, the time has come for me ... for SWIHA ...to do more to help prevent the widespread increase of coronavirus infections in Arizona.
As of Friday, June 19, 2020 SWIHA will require Face Coverings (e.g., masks, cloth face covering, face shield, etc.) to be worn by staff, instructors, and students when entering the building, walking in the hallways, shopping in the bookstore, and in any communal areas until safe physical distancing can be established within the classrooms.
I, and we, know this may challenge some of you as it has challenged me. And, we believe the time has come to do more to protect the more vulnerable members of our college and community.
Is wearing a face covering an answer to the spread of COVID-19? Unfortunately, as you all know, there is no clear-cut answer to the raging face mask debate. According to the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), “If there is any benefit, it probably lies in protecting the public from a potentially infected wearer rather than the wearer from a potentially infected public.”
A recent blog by the ACSH offers, “Because the novel coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) is a respiratory virus, it almost certainly spreads via respiratory droplets. Face Coverings can help catch the larger droplets as a person exhales. A mask may also prevent indirect transmission, for example by preventing the wearer from touching their face.”
In the end, face coverings are one of the most accessible insurances for situations when establishing and maintaining safe physical distance is not practical.
Doctors and medical professionals on the front line are demanding more people wear masks. Earlier this week nearly 700 medical providers in Arizona signed a letter and sent it to Governor Doug Ducey, urging him to make wearing masks a requirement when in public as coronavirus cases continue to spike across the state.
We believe it is time we listen to those medical professionals – one of whom I trust implicitly. You see, my son was among those who signed this letter. His name is Dr. Ryan Miller, and he is the Chief Resident serving in a Banner Health Emergency Room in Tucson. He has been serving on the front lines of this pandemic since its very beginning.
These were his words to me, “Mom, you have always told me to live my life with no regrets. Don’t look back and regret that you didn’t at least make the effort to have staff and students wear a face mask!”
Obviously, my son got my attention.
He went on to say, “It’s a bit like parenting. You don’t always know the exact right thing to do, and yet most of us, as parents, err on the side of caution! I would rather be accused to being too strict with my kids, rather than do nothing to protect them! I make some unpopular decisions. In the end, evidentially, they will know I did it because I care deeply for their welfare.”
Prevention is always the first step. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consistently offers four prevention steps:
Monitor symptoms. Do not allow anyone with symptoms to enter the building or interact with the community.
Sanitize and disinfest everything, and do it often.
When coming to work or class, maintain safe distancing.
When distancing of 6 feet is not possible, wear masks.
These guidelines will be fully adopted by SWIHA.
Monitor symptoms – A sign is posted as the entrance of SWIHA, SWINA, and Spirit of Yoga requiring all who enter to attest to their current state of health. Employees, instructors, students, and guests will be asked these four questions multiple times as they enter the building, classrooms, or clinics.
Sanitize and disinfect everything. We have a dedicated team of people who have been insuring the sanitization of our buildings. This will continue. These sanitation steps include multiple cleanings of bathrooms, classrooms, and common areas every day. Enhanced sanitation have been put place to address high touch areas including doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, as well as classroom materials such as massage tables, blankets, tables, chairs, etc. EPA recommended disinfectants are being used, including the maximum levels of alcohol based cleaning products.
Maintain safe physical distancing. Physical distancing is the practice of limiting direct physical contact and interaction between people. As explained on the AARP website, physical contact includes indirect contact between people through airborne and surface-bound particles or biological material left behind by others. Because the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-19 or Covid-19 is so contagious, and because human immune systems have no natural defenses against or tolerance of the virus, physical distancing has proven to be the most effective way to combat the spread of the disease.
Wear face coverings when distancing of 6 feet is not possible. As mentioned before, while there is some debate over the efficacy of masks, we choose to err on the side of caution. If they can help some, even though it may not be fully, it is worth the inconvenience.
For the welfare of all involved, these are the new guidelines at SWIHA:
All staff, instructors, and students are required to face coverings when entering the building, walking in the hallways, shopping in the bookstore, or in any communal areas until safe physical distancing can be established within the classrooms.
Once in the classrooms, with physical distancing established, a student may choose to remove their masks during lecture or non-contact activities.
To honor our students’ personal physical needs and freedom of choice, once they are in the class and classroom agreements are in place, if needed the classrooms will be separated into two areas to serve those who are unable to wear face coverings. In addition, when those students are in a massage or other interactive class that requires work within distance, they will be placed together for the duration of any of those activities.
SWIHA will reevaluate these guidelines the end of July and make any necessary adjustments at that time.
One of the most amazing aspects of the SWIHA community is the extraordinary diversity of souls who call it home. All your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs weave together to create a tapestry unlike any other in the world. And, within that diverse base of beliefs, we recognize this shift may challenge those of you who prefer not to wear face coverings. We understand that preference, and in this current climate, we ask you to please hold to these guidelines to help protect our broader community.
To create a distinction, if you are unable to wear a mask due to a physical condition or past trauma, we will honor that. However, we ask you to search yourself and your reasons, and unless you are physically unable to wear one due to one of those concerns, that you lean into wearing one during this time.
We know there will never be a time where everyone believes the same thing. The only path forward is for us to do our best to make our collective path wide enough to include all opinions, walking together in understanding, committed to the mutual benefit of our overall physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation during these challenging times. If you have any questions, please reach out to Dr. Brad Bouté, Dean of Students (email@example.com, 480-393-1396), who is coordinating our reopening efforts.