Tags Posts tagged with "coronavirus"


Sarah Crawford

Sarah Crawford, a professor of biology who has an expertise in virology, recently had an article published regarding the latest developments with vaccines and therapeutics in the journal, “Medical Research Archives.” The piece is titled, “Defeating the COVID-19 Pandemic by Targeting the Critical Interface between SARS-CoV-2 Virus Infection and Its Destructive Immune System Effects.”

Crawford discusses why younger people are at lower risk for severe reactions to COVID-19 infections; the role of interferon — both natural and in drug form — and of hydroxychloroquine on the disease; the keys to effective therapeutics; and whether it is possible to prevent the “cytokine storm,” the cascade of reactions causing serious complications in the second week after an infection begins.

She also addresses the topic of whether previous exposure to other coronaviruses can generate immunity.

And Crawford’s article points out that previous vaccines for SARS and other coronaviruses showed serious after effects in some patients in clinical trials. “We are beginning to see that now with the new vaccines,” she said.

After having her paper published, she was interviewed on Channel 3 (WFSB) and on WTIC radio (1080 AM).

The following is a question-and-answer with Crawford that offers a summary of the highlights of the article:

*Why are younger people at lower risk for severe reactions to COVID infections?

I believe one of the reasons is that people 50 years and older tend to produce less interferon than younger folks. Interferon inhibits the reproduction of the virus in the early stages.

*Can interferon as a drug help those who don’t produce enough of it naturally?

Studies have shown that it does help. But it has a wide range of effects in drug form, and the pros and cons would have to be weighed.

*Are there other reasons for young people having much milder symptoms?

This may be related to the various vaccines given to children. There is evidence to suggest they create a broad enhancement of the immune system during a person’s youth. This seems especially linked to a type of tuberculosis vaccine.

*What are keys to effective therapeutics?

The most effective therapeutics attack the spike attachment protein, replication of the RNA genome, and assembly of virus particles in infected cells.

*Is it possible to prevent the “cytokine storm,” the chain reaction in the body that spurs inflammation and sometimes blood clots and other complications, in a person who already has been infected?

Drugs, such as Remdesivir and Favipiravir decrease the duration of the disease, and seem to have the greatest effect in limiting the cytokine storm if given early in the infection. Dexamethasone, a glucosteroid, has been shown to decrease mortality rates.

*What about hydroxychloroquine? Is this an effective treatment or not?

There is conflicting evidence. But a study in Henry Ford Hospital included 2,500 patients in which there was a significant reduction in mortality rates when used by itself or with the antibiotic azithromycin, compared with those who used neither. This contradicted an earlier Oxford study.

*Can previous exposure to other coronaviruses generate some immunity from COVID-19?

Other coronavirus may produce long-lasting cross-reactive immune system responses.



Susan Burger
Susan Burger

The proliferation of COVID-19 has sparked a major increase in the use of telehealth appointments in an effort to reduce the chances of spreading the disease.

Some in-person medical visits are necessary even during times when the number of coronavirus infections is high. Other appointments can safely be postponed. But many of those important, non-emergency needs have been met through the use of telemedicine.

Susan Burger, associate professor of nursing who had done considerable research on telehealth before the pandemic, recently discussed the pros and cons of telehealth during an interview on Channel 30 (NBC Connecticut).


President Joe Bertolino in an interview with New 8's Ann Nyberg

Ahead of a Town Hall special, “Educating in a Pandemic,” on WTNH on July 30, 2020, News 8’s Ann Nyberg sat down for a one-on-one interview with President Joe Bertolino, to discuss the reopening of the university, among other related issues. As President Joe says in the interview, “There will be light at the end of the tunnel, it’s going to be okay. And while things may not get back to normal or be the same as it was before, I do think that we’re going to grow from the experience.”

Watch the interview:

One-on-one interview with SCSU President Joe Bertolino on COVID-19 impact on higher education

#SouthernStrong graphic with photo collage of SCSU students, faculty, staff, and alumni
As the university prepares to reopen, here’s a look at how the Southern community responded to the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic — and upheld its commitment to education.

First, the good news. Southern’s physical campus is slated to reopen for fall 2020, with classes beginning on Aug. 26, following a staggered move-in for residence hall students. Courses will be offered in a HyFlex model, a combination of on-ground and online courses. Public health guidelines will be followed (face coverings, class size, etc.) and, if the need arises, the university is prepared to pivot to an all online schedule. The goal is to complete the entire fall semester as scheduled, with one caveat – on-ground classes will end at the Thanksgiving break. After Thanksgiving, all remaining classes and final exams will be held online and all student services will be offered remotely.

The plan is a promising return to normalcy for the campus community.

The first campus-wide warning came in January: an email with tips for fighting seasonal influenza included a sentence about the outbreak of a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus identified in Wuhan, China. The news became increasingly dire in the following weeks, and, on Feb. 26, U.S. officials reported the first non-travel-related case of the illness now officially known as COVID-19.

On campus, the disease’s rapid-fire spread came to light on March 10, after a Southern student attended an event where another participant later tested positive for the virus. Southern’s physical campus was closed (initially for five days) for a deep cleaning, a process that included licensed professionals in HAZMAT suits.Southern’s campus has remained shuttered through spring and summer to date, following the Office of the Governor’s directives for statewide closures and the decision of the Connecticut State Universities and Colleges system.

At the macro-level, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented: in early June when the university magazine in which this article first appeared went to press, there were more than 1,800,000 cases and 106,000 deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — figures that have been tragically surpassed today. Like the nation and, indeed, much of the world, Southern is mourning profound losses. Students, university employees, and alumni have become ill from the virus, some seriously. While impossible to track all cases, Southern graduates have died from COVID-19.  No student has died from the virus as of June 24. The university is also navigating a new world order, driven by an overarching directive: ensuring the health and welfare of the Southern community and the community-at-large.

To be clear, the university was never closed. Instead, over a 10-day period that corresponded with students’ spring break, faculty prepared to adopt remote/online learning for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester. On March 23, all Southern courses began being offered remotely /online, with summer sessions soon following suit. With fall’s campus opening in sight, here’s a look at some of Southern’s initial responses to the early phases of the pandemic.

More at:  go.SouthernCT.edu/strong    inside.SouthernCT.edu/coronavirus

Demographic of SCSU students, Grad assistants/interns/faculty/staff, with collage images
The People:

Piloting Southern through the COVID-19 pandemic is complex. The university is a home-away-from-home for 11,072 people — more residents than 44 percent of cities/towns in Connecticut. In spring 2020, the Southern community included 9,212 students (1), a figure that comprises 7,456 undergraduates and 1,756 graduate students, both full- and part-time. There are also 2,050 faculty and staff, including some 190 students working as graduate assistants/interns.

FEMA setting up cots in response to Covid-19 at SCSU Moore Fieldhouse
Changing Places:

On March 31, 2020, the National Guard began assembling a 300-bed “Connecticut Medical Station” inside Southern’s Moore Fieldhouse [above]. (2) Designed as “overflow” space for Yale New Haven-Hospital in anticipation of a surge of COVID-10 patients, the facility fortunately had not been needed as of early June. The university also made available 2,500 rooms in nine residence halls, which were used minimally to house some National Guard staff.

A New Way of Working:

Following the governor’s mandate for statewide closures, about 1,662 faculty and staff began working remotely. They are responsible for most university operations — from admissions and teaching to information technology and health services. Those designated essential employees — 34 unsung heroes as of press time — continue to regularly report to campus. Among them: the police chief and officers, and the facilities team, including grounds crew, custodians, receiving staff, mailroom workers, supervisors, dispatchers, and building tradesmen.  An additional 116 employees are on-campus on an interim basis.

Chart showing pre- and post-Covid remote learning accounts, participants, and sessions

Teaching Remotely:

Between mid-March and the end of the month, the Office of Online Learning held more than 70 webinars — including individual and group support sessions. The focus was on teaching/learning through the use of several platforms: WebEx (web conferencing), Teams (an online communication and collaboration platform), Kaltura (video), and Blackboard (educational technology). In April, the office also held a three-day online Teaching Academy, with all sessions filled to capacity. In addition to the staff from the Office of Online Learning, faculty volunteers have helped with training.

SCSU Academic Success Center has Coach Team Meeting online

Academic Support:

The Academic Success Center is working virtually to help students succeed. The center’s hours have stayed the same and its tutors, 100 PALS (Peer Academic Leaders who focus on gateway and foundational courses), Academic Success Coaches, and more than 200 student workers all mobilized online through Microsoft Teams. “The short answer is we’re here,” says Kathleen De Oliveira, director of the ASC. “We want them to succeed. Just like before, all they have to do is come and ask.”

Buley Library:

The building is closed, but the library is open for business, with 100 percent of staff working remotely. They’re a busy group. Between the shutdown and mid-May, they redesigned their web page to promote online resources and services (100,000 visitors), answered 180 questions from students, hosted numerous online events (including an online exhibit for National Poetry Month), and even used 3D printing to create mask components for health care workers at UConn Health. Since the shutdown, they’ve also activated 3,500-plus online resources, including thousands of ebooks and streaming videos.

A Global Issue:

The pandemic has been particularly challenging for students who were far from home. There were 13 Southern students studying abroad during the spring 2020 semester: 10 returned home in mid-March and three signed waivers after deciding to remain in their host countries. International students studying at Southern — both exchange students and those who are matriculated at SCSU — were helped by the Office of International Studies (OIS) and, when needed, Residence Life. (They coordinated flights and airport shuttles, ensured access to food and housing, and much more.) The 26 international exchange students studying at Southern this spring returned home by early April. But many of the 65 matriculated international students remained in the U.S., staying with extended family or in campus-sponsored accommodations at an extended stay hotel with other students.
Looking forward, Southern is holding strong to its long-term commitment to international education. Intercultural engagement and global diversity in the classroom “are the antidote to the isolationism and nationalism that the pandemic has fueled in some parts of the world,” says Erin Heidkamp, director of the Office of International Education.

SCSU student and Army National Guard member Renee Villarreal with baby
Renee Villarreal — parent, student, Army National Guard member
The Ties that Bind:

“The current situation is hard for students,” says Sal Rizza, director of New and Sophomore Programs, reflecting on the spring 2020 semester. “We’re trying to bring a little life and enjoyment. There are a ton of activities happening.” Among them: SCSU Music Trivia, The Dan Baronski Hour (peer mentor and orientation ambassador Baronski talks fashion and music), Cooking with Kyra, Coffee Chat with Student Involvement, and more.

Campus Recreation and Fitness held programs to get students moving, including a live-stream workout with President Joe Bertolino and his trainer, Hunter Fluegel, that drew about 300 viewers. Similarly, more than 200 students and 100 faculty and staff signed up for A Southern Strong Step Challenge. Many student clubs also met online, with Daphney Alston assistant director of Student Involvement, noting that the university is “really proud of how clubs and organizations have tried to figure out this new normal.”

SCSU President Joe Bertolino and volunteers deliver lawn signs to 2020 future graduates


With large gatherings prohibited, Southern is holding a virtual commencement ceremony for undergraduate and graduate students on Aug. 15 — and also found ways to immediately honor students safely. More than 1,000 celebratory yard signs were delivered to graduates; an emotional virtual pinning ceremony was held for graduating nursing majors; and seniors submitted photos and memories for a virtual yearbook and social media spotlights.

Helping Hands:

When the Southern campus closed suddenly in mid-March, Chartwells was left with an abundance of food. That’s when an existing food recovery program run by Southern’s Office of Sustainability and Chartwells sprang into action. Several students and Chartwells staff packaged more than 300 pounds of food for delivery to St. Anne’s Soup Kitchen in Hamden, Park Ridge Tower Affordable Senior Living in New Haven, and Monterey Place Senior Living in New Haven.
There were countless other outreach efforts. Southern police collected equipment from university labs/clinics to assist in relieving the PPE shortage, numerous community members made and donated face coverings, Buley Library staff 3D printed components for face masks, and more.

You helped, too:

Responding to students’ heightened need, more than 1,000 donors contributed over $500,000 during Southern’s Day of Caring, held on April 22.

SCSU Alumni collage during Covid-19 pandemic

Alumni Pride:

Thoughts are also with our alumni, many of whom are in the frontlines of fighting the pandemic. Among them are more than 11,000 graduates of the College of Health and Human Services. Similarly, as the largest educator of teachers and educational administrators in the state, Southern salutes its graduates of the College of Education — who have turned to technology to educate their young charges.

Through it all, our 93,500-plus alumni have remained a source of pride, strength, and optimism. Consider Fairfield, Conn., couple Maureen and Dan Rosa (3), both graduates of the Class of 2010, who met as Southern students in 2006. Tragically, Maureen’s father Gary Mazzone was among those killed in the crash of a World War II-era B-17 bomber plane on Oct. 2, 2019, at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. A year later, the couple faced the fear of welcoming their first child during the epicenter of the pandemic. And, yet, they persevered and triumphed — and the media heralded their joy on April 2 when they welcomed their new daughter: Cecilia Hope Rosa.

Cover of SCSU Southern Alumni Magazine Summer 2020Read more stories in the Summer ’20 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

President Joe Bertolino on WTNH's CT Style program

In an interview with WTNH’s CT Style host Teresa Dufour, President Joe Bertolino addresses questions about public higher education during COVID-19, covering topics such as the challenges and opportunities presented when the university had to go fully online earlier this spring; how the university has operated during this time; how the university is preparing for a potential reopening of campus in the fall; and what that will look like.

As one of only four students in Connecticut to receive the Bob Eddy Scholarship, Jason Edwards is being recognized for talent and promise.

Spring 2020 will be one to remember for Southern rising senior Jason Edwards — and he has the photos to prove it.

In addition to completing online courses, working as a student photographer for Southern’s communications and marketing department, and serving as photo editor of the student-run Crescent magazine, the talented journalism major is turning his camera lens on his neighbors to visually capture the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Connecticut Naugatuck Valley.

Edwards is one of only four recipients of the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists Foundation’s Bob Eddy Scholarship, which recognizes excellence and promise in the field. The award is open to rising college juniors and seniors attending Connecticut universities as well as state residents who are studying elsewhere.

In related news, numerous Southern student journalists were recognized for their work in Crescent magazine and the Southern News from the Society of Professional Journalists in its Mark of Excellence competition.

Slate magazine quoted Deborah Weiss, professor of communication disorders and Faculty Senate president, regarding the changes brought to the educational experience as a result of the coronavirus. Weiss talks in the article about the uncertainty around what the fall semester will look like.
Read the Slate article, “Empty Lecture Halls, No Fall Football, a Freshman-Only Campus” (By Ruth Graham, April 28, 2020)
Deborah Weiss

The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly presents our fourth group of SouthernStrong awardees. These awards shine a light on faculty, staff, and students who are lending a helping hand, with acts of kindness large and small, not only for their fellow Owls, but also for friends, neighbors, and strangers.

We recognize and celebrate Angelica Castro, Amanda Cavoto, Meghan Gula, Michael Keating, and Alyssa Laydon for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness are making a positive impact during this difficult time.

Do you know an unsung hero who’s been making a difference during the pandemic? Please nominate them so their kindness can be celebrated!

Angelica Castro

Angelica Castro, a senior nursing student, was nominated by a faculty member. Castro is president of the Multicultural Healthcare Leaders and, says her nominator, throughout the year “she has done an incredible job in her role. Organizing events on and off campus. This is a relatively small group and the work they do under her leadership is incredible.”  As everyone in the university community began preparing work from home, Castro’s nominator wrote, most faculty and students were preoccupied with their own needs and their ability to meet the demands put on them by the pandemic. As a senior, her nominator wrote, Castro has much to manage, including continued preparation in order to finish her classes, the application process for getting a job, and getting ready to take the certification exam. Yet, her nominator wrote, “she has not let that stop her from continuing to lead the MCHLs. She has continued to provide virtual meetings and activities to lift the spirit of the group as well as continue to work on their mission and vision. She recently organized and hosted ‘Games at Noon.’ This activity was such a great event because it brought the students together to have fun and interact with each other. Something they are all missing out on.”

Castro’s nominator added that she is “the epitome of Southern Strong, when the going gets tough the tough get going, and she has done exactly that. Her leadership is invaluable to the group and she will go on to be a leader in the nursing profession.”

Angelica Castro

Amanda Cavoto

Amanda Cavoto, nominated by a fellow student, is a senior majoring in psychology with a minor in journalism. “Amanda is not only a genuine soul who’s made a positive impact on the lives of her peers, professors, and friends,” her nominator wrote, “but she has been a true inspiration for many during this trying time.” As co-editor of Crescent Magazine and arts & entertainment editor for the Southern News, Cavoto has made it her duty to highlight some of the challenges experienced by her peers and fellow students within the SCSU community and beyond. She advocates for those whose voices aren’t heard, and always leaves a lasting impact on those she encounters, wrote her nominator. Cavoto’s hard work and dedication to her academic and professional career have led her to become one of three awardees of the new Crescent Journalist of Year honor. This impressive achievement is just one of the many she has accomplished over the course of her time at Southern, her nominator wrote, adding, “Amanda empowers and encourages others to never give up, and has brought a sense of hope and optimism into our newly founded online community. She is a powerhouse of a woman, and she is a role model for many. I am truly honored to have witnessed the impacts she has made on her community and know she destined for great success.”

Amanda Cavoto

Meghan Gula

Meghan Gula is an MSW student who has been working as a “Food Access Fellow” for the Community Alliance for Research and Alliance (CARE) in the College of Health and Human Services. Nominated by the CARE director, Gula has spent the past two years supporting CARE’s work to promote healthy food options in food pantries in New Haven. “Before the COVID-19 crisis,” her nominator wrote, “Meghan had already proven herself as a competent, organized, independent, compassionate, and dependable staff person. She has been a true asset!”

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, CARE quickly mobilized with its food assistance partners in New Haven through the Coordinated Food Assistance Network (CFAN) to respond to emergency food challenges that quickly emerged. A delivery program was immediately organized to get food from food pantries to home bound, disabled or immunocompromised community members who depend on food pantries for their basic food needs — and who can no longer get out. This program is called the Pantry to Pantry Food Delivery Program (P2P).

Gula was asked to quickly transition her role at CARE to support this work. Her nominator wrote that “she didn’t hesitate for one second and has been integral to implementing the program. Leaning into her Social Work skills, Meghan is the point person for all client intake as the Intake Specialist. She has been a thought leader organizing the now 3-week old pantry deliveries and has led the development of the client intake system. She has worked long hours to launch the program — registering clients, training volunteers on client intake, and generally organizing the efforts to ensure these clients continue to have access to food. She is passionate about her work and caring and compassionate in her approach.”

In the first three weeks, P2P made 464 deliveries, and the number of registered clients has grown each week. Gula’s nominator wrote, “This is a team effort, but Meghan is a critical contributor. Calm, practical and organized, her example inspires us all to work harder. We are so grateful for all she is doing for our community!”

Meghan Gula

Michael Keating

Student Michael Keating was nominated by his brother, who wrote that Keating “is an inspiration to me. During this pandemic, he has donated over 40 full bags of groceries to one of the Waterbury food banks so that they could stay open and be able to just give each family a bag. He has also donated diapers, formula and groceries to some needy families in Waterbury. He is one of the founders of a small organization called Step by Step that collects redeemable bottles and cans and turns the money in to help those less fortunate. He is the rock of the family and is always willing to help others.”

Michael Keating making a delivery

Alyssa Laydon

Student Alyssa Laydon has been working at Yale New Haven Children’s Psychiatric Hospital for two years now. She has been working 12-hour shifts now that COVID-19 has presented and helps teens find comfort and courage during this difficult time. “Anxiety and depression are highly increased with this unpredictable time,” she wrote, “and I have been dedicating myself to improving the lives of the children I see.”

Alyssa Laydon at work


The SCSU President’s Recognition Committee proudly present our first group of SouthernStrong awardees. These awards shine a light on faculty, staff, and students who are lending a helping hand, with acts of kindness large and small, not only for their fellow Owls, but also for friends, neighbors, and strangers.

We recognize and celebrate Suzie Huminski, Michelle Johnston, Joan Kreiger, Renee Villarreal, and Bo Zamfir for their commitment to making a difference and stepping up during the pandemic crisis. Their acts of kindness are making a positive impact during this difficult time.

Do you know an unsung hero who’s been making a difference during the pandemic? Please nominate them so their kindness can be celebrated!

Suzie Huminski

Suzie Huminski, the university’s sustainability coordinator, also teaches two Honors courses to freshmen. One of her students nominated her for a SouthernStrong Award, writing that Huminski “is constantly reaching out [to her students], and offering her help during this hard time. When Southern closed she was my first professor to reach out, and reassure us that she would do everything possible to make this a smooth transition, which she has of course delivered on. She has made all due dates flexible based on our personal needs, and made our first few Webex meetings optional so we could check in if we needed anything. However, her most important contribution has been sewing and creating masks in her free time (despite being the sustainability coordinator and moving her teaching of honors courses online during this crazy time!) She has been making these masks to help out local CT hospitals and to students continuing to work in them.”

Suzie Huminski

Michelle Johnston

Michelle Johnston, director of donor relations in the Division of Institutional Advancement, has made and donated over 300 non-medical face masks. She also made a how-to video, demonstrating how she makes a mask, and shared it with the Southern community on social media, so that others could sew masks quickly and easily. Johnston’s nominator wrote that, Johnston “is inventive, energetic, and adaptive — finding alternatives when she runs out of elastic, using her mother’s old drapes as fabric, figuring out ways to make masks more easily, faster, and contacting friends to sew too…the list goes on.”

Her nominator, a colleague, added, “There’s more. I first met Michelle when she started the mobile food pantry at Southern. Yes, she is why that program is here. Michelle is incredibly generous, creative, and compassionate, and chock full of common sense. She is the kind of person who heads toward a problem in order to help, instead of getting caught flat-footed or avoiding involvement. You inspire me, Michelle!”

Michelle Johnston with just a few of the masks she has sewn

Joan Kreiger

In addition to her role as the respiratory care coordinator with the Department of Health and Movement Sciences, Joan Kreiger has been filling a need as a respiratory therapist at Greenwich Hospital, which is part of the Y-NH Health System. In this role she is serving in ICU dealing with some of the most critical COVID-19 patients. Her nominator, a colleague, wrote that Kreiger has reported “the patients in ICU are all in critical condition and require ventilation support as the patients’ lungs are ‘stiff’ and are unable to transfer oxygen and carbon dioxide normally. In her role, she is working with a team of physicians and nurses doing their best to maintain the lives of their patients.”

Joan Kreiger

Renee Villarreal

Renee Villarreal, a student, is homeschooling her toddler and serves in the Army National Guard, while managing to take five online classes. She also works two part-time jobs and is independent. Her nominator wrote that Villarreal “helps herself her daughter and our Southern community by serving the country.”

Renee Villarreal and her child

Bogdan Zamfir

Bogdan Zamfir, director of the Center for Educational and Assistive Technology, has led the academic initiative supporting faculty in their immediate transition to teaching virtually as a result of COVID-19. His nominator wrote that he was quick to convene a response team of online teaching and technology experts who continue to collaborate on online teaching and learning strategies and trainings offered under the brand-new Office of Online Learning. She added, “Bo’s thoughtful and informed approach resulted in the development of several technology-driven mini-trainings, an in-house faculty support system, and a redesigned Teaching Academy focused on technology and pedagogy that will support Southern’s plans for online course delivery as our campus moves from response to recovery. Undoubtedly, Bo has invested considerable hours, working well-beyond the parameters of his position, consulting, researching and coordinating efforts to deliver a quality program to address the training and support needs of faculty and students for online teaching and learning during and after this crisis. Bo’s leadership, diligence and commitment during this pandemic are inspiring and a testament that he is SouthernStrong and worthy of this recognition.”

Bo Zamfir