This article was written by student Ketia Similen.
Erin B. Duff is a graduate student in the Master’s in Public Health (MPH) program and Southern’s COVID coordinator. She has always been involved in student affairs and is constantly trying to learn and grow through public health conferences and experiences on campus. Working as a hall director for Chase Hall and the Wellness Center for the past two years has helped Duff in managing her new position. Transitioning into the COVID coordinator role was an evolving experience, as the responsibilities of this position increased over time. Duff takes joy in this position as her new experiences have reinforced her passion for public health while highlighting the importance of it in our society. Duff says, “Every day I know I am helping someone and I think that is the best feeling, whether that is answering a question or making Southern a little bit safer by putting someone in quarantine.”
In addition to contacting those who test positive for COVID-19 or those who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, Duff speaks to students and staff about health education and how they can keep themselves and their loved ones safe, while clarifying any misconceptions around COVID-19. The most challenging part, Duff says, is that the actions of others cannot be controlled, making control of COVID-19 unpredictable. “Every day is different so I don’t always know what to expect – which is good, as it keeps me on my toes – but also can be overwhelming at times.” As Southern’s COVID Coordinator, Duff meets with the Department of Public Health once or twice a week for updates, while also working closely with other Connecticut schools to discuss the best practices that will help her be more effective in her job at Southern.
Duff is seeing first-hand that Southern students are resilient and committed to their safety and the community’s safety. Southern’s students continue to work hard during this pandemic so they can finish their semester strong, despite all the barriers that they face. “I am hopeful for our future,” Duff says. “I know we all crave a sense of normalcy and to one day go back to the way things were – but to do that everyone needs to play a role. By social distancing, washing hands often, and wearing a mask, that is the best way that we are going to combat this virus and come out stronger.” Duff tells us all, “Do not give up hope! We’ve got this!”