Difficult Conversations in the Time of COVID-19

By Eileen Roth, April 9, 2021
A message from Eileen Roth, off-campus living coordinator.

IC Public Health Column.

We are officially a few weeks away from the end of the semester, and I am proud of the hard work of our students, staff and faculty in keeping Ithaca College’s COVID-19 numbers low. It is encouraging to know that our procedures and processes have been successful in protecting our IC community from COVID-19.  

However, as the sun starts to shine and warm weather approaches, it can be easy to let our guard down. Chatting with a friend or peer about high-risk behaviors can be the difference between a COVID-19 spreader event and keeping our community on track. Examples of high-risk behaviors include travel outside Tompkins County, gathering in large groups, breaking your Bomber bubble, providing inaccurate information to contact tracers, failing to perform your regular COVID-19 testing, and not wearing a mask.  While Ithaca College does provide an online reporting form to help hold one other accountable, sometimes a direct dialogue with a friend can go a long way.   

People tend to avoid conflict because it makes us feel uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are a few tips to help you start the conversation.  

  • Connect: “Hello”   
  • Empathize: “I realize that it’s not always easy.”   
  • Hold up the mirror: “I see that...”   
  • Educate: “Did you know travel is one of the top contributors to the spread of COVID-19?”   
  • Script the move: “Could you please put your mask on?”   
  • Wait and watch   
  • Compliment: Make sure to thank the person for correcting their behavior.   

In conversations with close friends or family members, try to understand the “need.” If your roommate really misses their family, for example, see if you can brainstorm ways for them to remain connected without traveling. Perhaps arranging a weekly Zoom time could meet your roommate’s need for connectedness, while also meeting your need for safety. If you are having a conflict with your roommate, you can always contact your resident assistant or, as an off campus student, contact the off-campus living coordinator.   

Contact tracing is a very important component in keeping our COVID numbers at a minimum. As such, it is important to always cooperate and report information accurately when communicating with contact tracers, even though it may mean that friends must quarantine as a result. Quarantine is important to make sure that we do not create super spreader events unintentionally and large numbers of positive cases, which could mean the college has to shift to remote status disrupting the semester for everyone. The contact tracer will protect your personal information when notifying others.   

 Be sure to check in on your friends, peers and classmates to ensure that we are all working together toward a common goal to keep our numbers low. An honest and direct conversation with others can keep Ithaca College safe. Keep up the great work IC.   

Remember: Know your Bomber bubble, stay local and protect your Ithaca community. 

Sincerely, 

Eileen Roth  
Off-Campus Living Coordinator