As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change restrictions in and around campus, the job of Health and Counseling Services at Gonzaga has adapted in order to accommodate to new regulations.

Among the most notable changes is the implementation of COVID-19 testing and the care to students who may have recently tested positive.

“We started by completing PCR testing last fall at a satellite clinic on campus for those with COVID-19 symptoms or exposures,” said Dr. Kristiana Holmes, director of Health and Counseling Services at GU, in an email.

While Health and Counseling Service is now implementing mostly antigen testing for COVID-19, testing has now moved back to their main building with appropriate precautions in place for students and staff, Holmes said. 

Along with testing for COVID-19, most counseling services that are offered have been moved over to Zoom.

“Counselors have participated in training and education to be more competent in providing services though Zoom,” said Fernando Ortiz director of Counseling Services at GU.

In addition to further training and education, Health and Counseling Services also worked to make sure that, since the counselors are credited in Washington, they would be able to work with students currently residing in other states, Ortiz said.

Even though counseling services have been made to adapt to a virtual setting, there is still hope to resume face-to-face counseling in the future. 

“When students need immediate resources, for example, referrals to the disability office or to a psychiatrist for a medication management, physical meetings versus virtual meetings are more conducive to positive outcomes,” Ortiz said.

As a result of this, there is a small exception that, with the necessary precautions in place, a student in crisis may still be seen in person.

The most important change for students to be aware of regarding Counseling Services, is the accessibility to psychiatric and triage services, Ortiz said.

There are psychiatrists both on and off campus who manage necessary medication for students.

“Initially, we were concerned this was going to be very limited,” Ortiz said. “However, in the fall semester we developed a structure that continued to operate seamlessly, and students have benefitted from this change and upgrade in our medical and health services.” 

Despite all of the new additions to their services, all of the previously offered facilities of Health and Counseling Services remain the same.

Nevertheless, it is still important for students to be aware of the access they have to COVID-19 resources right on campus, whether it is testing or counseling.

“The best piece of advice I can give our students right now is to remain vigilant,” Holmes said. “It is not time to lesson our rigor with masking, social distancing and the like.” 

Up to this point students have been doing a good job of adhering to restrictions, but it is important to stick with it for just a while longer, Holmes said.

Despite the recent announcement that GU plans to reopen fully for the Fall 2021 semester, Holmes believes that these changes will continue to apply for the foreseeable future.

“However, depending on the evolution of COVID-19 and the fact that many of us will be vaccinated, it’s possible we will see less of a need for these services,” Holmes said.

Even though these services have been offered all year, it is never too late for a student to reach out to Health and Counseling Services with any questions or concerns regarding COVID-19.

“If you are experiencing an emotional struggle during this terrible pandemic, whatever that may be, please call us or make contact with our offices and providers,” Ortiz said. “We are here for you and professionally care for your overall wellbeing.”

Georgia Cosola is a staff writer. 

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