Happy spring everyone! It has been a while since I have penned a public health column, but I hope that you have enjoyed hearing the voices of others on campus whose work has been so critical to the Ithaca College COVID-19 pandemic response this semester.
Activity continues to increase on campus, with students finally being able to enjoy the outdoors more as the weather has warmed. Most of my days are now filled with planning for our end of the year events to mark the last day of classes, senior splash, and commencement – not to mention our robust summer programming. These all need to be re-envisioned to comply with COVID-19 protocols, and I realize that this continues to result in some disappointment. I have truly enjoyed working with the unofficial public health experts that have emerged on this campus who are figuring out ways for these events to happen, in some form, successfully.
I did want to take a break from planning to re-engage with all of you about the beauty of Ithaca, and particularly our gorges, and how embracing nature is so important as we enter the second year of this pandemic. Seriously, go outside. Walk away from the computer and the Zoom classes and meetings and enjoy what Tompkins County has to offer. Being outside offers a more COVID-safe alternative to congregate, and you get to see some beautiful waterfalls in the process.
For our first-year students, exploring these natural wonders is a “must do” on your bucket list while you are here – don’t miss Ithaca Falls, Buttermilk Falls State Park, Robert H. Treman State Park, and Taughannock Falls State Park. Ask around and those who have been here for longer can share their favorites, including those hidden gems not on this list.
Please enjoy these natural wonders responsibly and safely. These areas are off campus, but the Community Agreement still applies. Remember that these are public places, so represent Ithaca College well by keeping your face coverings on and remaining physically distant from others. In addition, Bill Kerry, our Director of Public Safety and Emergency Management, asked me to remind everyone to remain on designated trails, yield to fence lines, and adhere to posted signage and warnings of danger when exploring these areas.
While these natural wonders are beautiful, they can sometimes become dangerous and unfortunately cause harm when not enjoyed properly. Sadly, over the years, many have been seriously injured or have died swimming in or jumping into the gorges. Even the best swimmers risk being pulled underwater by a strong current. Others who pursue the thrill of the jump or dive risk slipping, falling, and landing or colliding wrong with the rocks or water.
Taking the time to enjoy nature safely should help with balancing some of the frustrations we can experience while on campus, having to adhere to the heightened COVID-19 protocols. These public health measures do work, as is evidenced by your success in keeping IC “in the green” this spring. Please make the choice to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to reduce your risk of developing severe disease and minimize the chance that you can pass the virus to others. Since most of our physical campus is a public space, as we wait for more people to be vaccinated, wearing those face coverings and maintaining distance remain important.
We have three weeks – 21 days – to go before the last day of classes. Let’s keep working together and perhaps shift our goal slightly. While it remains important to successfully complete the semester, let’s keep up the public health measures to make sure we’re able to send our senior class and graduate students off with an in-person ceremony to celebrate their successes.
Christina Moylan, Ph.D.
Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness