A look inside the Bailey Health Center during the pandemic

Tasked+with+responding+to+the+unexpected+surge+of+cases+caused+by+the+Delta+Variant%2C+Dr.+Goldstein+praised+the+resilience+and+dedication+of+the+Bailey+Health+Center+Staff%2C+some+of+whom+are+picture+above.+%28Photo+by+Pierson+White+24%29

Tasked with responding to the unexpected surge of cases caused by the Delta Variant, Dr. Goldstein praised the resilience and dedication of the Bailey Health Center Staff, some of whom are picture above. (Photo by Pierson White ’24)

Baris Yazici

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Bailey Health Center has been the epicenter of the fight against COVID-19 at Lafayette. Even though many students visited the center this semester, few are likely familiar with the specific challenges the center faced, the logistics behind its current operations or the changes caused by the pandemic.

“It is, quite frankly, exhausting managing all the moving parts that it takes to manage not only the covid patients but all the layering on top of that. The testing, the administrative aspects of managing the public health [and] the communication,” Director of Health Services Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein said. “The process is physically and emotionally exhausting.”

Even though the health center has been working over the summer to ensure that students were vaccinated, the beginning of the year turned out to be different than they expected.

“Our mindset coming into the semester was that the vaccines would come on board and we would be in great shape to go back to normal. None of us, including the infectious disease experts around the country, would have predicted what occurred both in the US and on our campus in regards to the rate of breakthrough infections,” Goldstein explained.

This somewhat optimistic expectation made it even more challenging for the Health Center to respond to the sudden need for resources to alleviate the recent spike in cases.

“We were somewhat unprepared for the rate of breakthrough cases,” Goldstein said. “We keep going, we’re all doing this because we love what we do. However, you can imagine, there is a physical and an emotional aspect of this. We are a resilient bunch, but we’re not immune to fatigue and exhaustion.”

Goldstein is the only college health physician at Lafayette College, meaning there is one physician for 2,709 students. He is also the administrative head of the department.

“I’m trying to manage all the administrative responsibilities, and the public health responsibility is fairly enormous, too,” Goldstein said.

“We are faced with the fact that there are times when the resources we have at the college are insufficient to accommodate the daily needs of students requesting appointments. We try to manage the operations in creative ways to accommodate for the surge,” he added.

The health center is in a constant process of transformation due to the changing nature of the virus and students’ needs, dealing with insufficient resources makes their jobs harder. For example, when the Delta variant became known, the center had to change their whole testing strategy, Goldstein explained.

“We added some resources from a hospital network to help us with testing. Instead of doing one test at a time, we were doing ten tests at a time,” he said.

“Week by week, we look at different challenges that we’re faced with and try to make changes to accommodate a new curveball that the pandemic throws at us,” Goldstein said.

There were also some fundamental changes in response to the pandemic, both to the operation and the layout of the health center, in order to make it safer. According to Goldstein, the waiting room was hardly used in comparison to previous years, while last year, the office had separate entrances and separate exits.

“We used a greater area of the health center that we never used before. We tried to spread things out,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein stressed the importance and resilience of the staff at the center, none of whom responded to a request for comment.

“This staff of mine worked so hard and so tirelessly under very difficult situations to accommodate the students’ needs. I think most students appreciate it, but I want the students to understand that this staff has been in a fight for a long time and they have done a tremendous job,” Goldstein said. “Also understanding that we’re people, too. I think students have the impression that this is just something one has to do, but we all have insecurities. We all have stress and anxiety, and we’re not immune to all these. So, just maybe, getting the students to understand the amount of stress the healthcare providers here work under is important.”