A look at BGSU’s COVID Hotline

Hotline+-+Graphic+via+Pixabay%2FColor+by+Hunter+Huffman

Hotline – Graphic via Pixabay/Color by Hunter Huffman

Chloe Kozal and Chloe Kozal

The BGSU COVID-19 Response Hotline has been frequented since August 2020, with up to hundreds of calls a week.

“People who call the hotline are often anxious or worried. It’s the job of the hotline to put them at ease, share the facts and help with next steps,” Brandi Barhite, BGSU’s hotline supervisor and Director of Enrollment Communications, said.

The hotline faces a wide-ranging scope of topics from callers. According to hotline responder Christine Nelson, “classroom distancing, mask-wearing concerns by faculty members, concerns about faculty not accommodating due to quarantine isolation, parents concerned about isolation in campus housing and concerns about the vaccine mandate and finding how to receive the COVID-19 vaccine” are all discussed on a weekly basis at the hotline.

The hotline consists of three people who manage the phone, and one supervisor, Barhite, for the whole campus. Each worker has part-time shifts, and each call gets an intake report based on the situation discussed during the phone call or if a caller leaves a voicemail. Depending on the topic, the hotline responders attempt to solve the concern or report it. Even if a caller leaves a voicemail, the hotline workers always attempt to call them back.

A majority of phone calls to the hotline currently are from students and BGSU community members reporting positive cases or reporting a covid exposure and needing guidance with BGSU’s coronavirus policies.

When BGSU President Rodney Rodgers announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Sept. 2, the hotline was flooded with voicemails.

“We had 400 calls over seven days due to the vaccine mandate announcement. I logged on to 55 calls that night left over from the last shift, and had to log off that night with leftover voicemails,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the public has been very patient with any wait times that occur, and there are very few frustrated callers.

“We primarily work with Chief Health Officer Ben Batey, but we also work with representatives from housing, advising and academics if a student has questions about isolation or quarantine and how that might affect living and learning on campus,” Barhite said.

Sophomore Adam “AJ” Firestein tested positive for COVID-19 in the earlier half of the fall 2021 semester.

“My experience with the hotline itself was not too bad. I took a COVID test through the app they require us to go through and when it came back positive it automatically alerted the covid hotline. The people on the hotline called me every day to track my symptoms and ask questions” Firestein said.

Firestein experienced difficulties with quarantining on campus and transitioning from living in a dorm to living in quarantine in an old fraternity house in the Greek Village, expressing that the impact of having COVID-19 led to difficulties getting to the house, as well as a lack of supplies provided. However, some issues he experienced with quarantining on campus did not directly relate to the hotline.

“The next morning (after testing positive), I received a call from the hotline saying that I had about an hour to pack up. I then had to carry all my stuff over to the COVID-19 housing myself, which was about a mile walk, while having covid, a respiratory illness. It took me almost an hour to walk all the way over.” Firestein said.

COVID-19 cases at BGSU have been relatively low, according to BGSU’s COVID-19 Dashboard. As of Oct. 11, there are currently 15 confirmed cases and 6 suspected cases of coronavirus for students, faculty and staff.

A common concern cited among students is classroom distancing. According to a BG Falcon Media Q&A poll on Instagram, seven out of eight respondents discussed the lack of distancing in their in-person classes when responding to the question: “Are your classrooms socially distanced?”

“No, in addition when students wear their masks incorrectly, most professors will not correct them. It’s extremely unsafe. We are way too close in most classes.” Sophomore Cam Bruder replied on Instagram.

Senior Taylor Kitchen also replied on Instagram, “One of my classes started (socially distanced) and then gave up. Otherwise, no. Many professors are requesting larger rooms with no response… they’re trying.”

As COVID-19 cases decrease due to vaccinations, the hotline’s task may adjust from managing positive cases and quarantining students, faculty and staff to focusing on responding to and assisting students and faculty concerned about classroom distancing and mask-wearing.

The BGSU COVID-19 Response Hotline can be reached at 419-372-3000 and is active Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.