Fall Semester Sickness
By: Lauren Higgins
Sniffling, sneezing and coughing are familiar sounds in many SUNY Brockport classrooms. As the weather changes, the number of students dealing with colds and respiratory issues is on the rise.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), respiratory illnesses have increased steadily over the past few weeks.
Brockport sophomore Rileigh Gray is just one of the many students dealing with respiratory issues. She has been sick three times this semester.
“At the beginning of September, I had a viral upper respiratory infection which then turned into bronchitis towards the end of the month. I was pretty healthy during the month of October up until the first week of November when I started not to feel great again,” said Gray.
Gray ended up driving to the WellNow Urgent Care in Brockport to get checked out but was surprised when she was turned away by the front desk staff.
“I walked in and asked to be seen, but I was turned away. They told me they are so busy that they aren’t accepting walk-ins because so many people are sick. I was told that you have to schedule an appointment beforehand to be seen,” said Gray.
Local health care workers are overwhelmed. They say since school has been back in session, the number of patients they’ve seen has doubled from 50-60 a day to around 100-120.
Professors at SUNY Brockport are also seeing the firsthand effects the sicknesses are having on students, as absences are on the rise.
Journalism Professor Mary McCrank says absences are significantly higher compared to past semesters.
“I have experienced a higher than usual number of absences this semester. Partly due to just general illnesses, including COVID scares. I had two students out with COVID despite being vaccinated,” said McCrank.
McCrank says though many students have been absent this semester, almost all of them have been cooperative with handing in work on time.
“Most of the absences are for real sincere reasons and most can keep up with the work and most can balance, but there have been a few for sure who have stretched the boundaries, but that is more the rarity thankfully than it is the norm,” said McCrank. “My main goal is for everybody to maintain physical and mental health because I know from what I’ve been reading and hearing from students that anxiety is high from returning back to campus.”
With students back in classrooms, people back in the office and many planning to travel over the holidays, health experts are worried that this flu season will be the worst one yet compared to previous years.
According to the CDC, the 2020-2021 flu season had under 2,000 reported flu cases compared to the 39 million reported the previous year. Doctors say it was likely due to the strict COVID-19 precautions.
Students are struggling with knowing whether they have COVID-19 or the flu. The two illnesses share a lot of the same symptoms.
Brockport sophomore Cambrie Eckert was a student struggling to tell the difference. After testing negative for COVID-19, she found out she had the flu.
“I was so nervous the day of my COVID test. I was so sure I would test positive, but I didn’t,” Eckert said.
Eckert recalls how the symptoms she experienced made it confusing to tell the difference.
“It was scary. I remember waking up one day and realizing I couldn’t taste anything. I tried hot sauce, lemon juice, soda and peanut butter. Nothing. It was weird because I could sense spicy, sour, or sweet things, but not taste it at all,” Eckert said. “My smell was the same. I couldn’t tell if I had COVID or the flu because I couldn’t smell or taste and I was coughing nonstop. It was horrible.”
Though many students across campus have been falling ill, there are a variety of ways to protect yourself. Wearing a mask, staying socially distant, washing your hands frequently and practicing proper cough etiquette can help protect you and others around you.
As the fall semester comes to a close, the sniffling, sneezing and coughing will be here to stay for the rest of the year.
COVID-19 testing sites in the area: