For Community Well-Being, Whole Equals Sum of Its Parts
By Kelly Saavedra
Since March, Maureen Dasey-Morales has co-led Carnegie Mellon University’s response to the pandemic. As we start the fall semester, the associate vice president for Community Health and Well-Being says we have reason to expect a successful return to campus, but we all must do our part.
“I think we have taken a very conservative approach to resuming on-campus classes, living in residence halls and conducting research with a slow phasing-in of activities, reducing density and employing strong mitigation efforts. We’ve developed a plan that has the best possible chance of success,” Dasey-Morales said.
“There are many variables we can’t control that will determine the paths taken in the next few months, but for those variables we can control, we need everyone at CMU to be working together to follow the plan we’ve set out.”
The very nature of the Carnegie Mellon community will be working in our favor, she said, pointing out that we are a dedicated, high-achieving group of people used to setting goals and making results happen.
“If we all agree on the same goals this fall and are putting that intensity and drive toward the same purpose, then we have given ourselves the best chance possible,” she said.
Dasey-Morales has identified four behaviors each of us must adopt as individuals to help ensure the health and well-being of the whole community.
“First, wear your facial coverings and physically distance when out of your residence all of the time. I can’t stress this enough. Second, monitor for any possible symptoms and seek medical consultation immediately if you notice symptoms. This is key to containing the virus,” she said.
“Third, stay connected emotionally to others in new, creative ways so that we can prevent the mental health risks that come from isolation. And lastly, ask for help when you need it — from wherever you are studying or working this fall. Asking for help is not a weakness, and we are all in this together.”
"Living in a pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint."
A licensed psychologist for many years, Dasey-Morales has helped individuals cope effectively with life’s ups and downs, and said she cannot repeat her fourth and final directive enough.
“Ask for help when you need it. Beyond that, ask others if they need help when you think someone might be struggling,” she said. “It is a gift to ourselves to help others. Connection to others and finding balance with work and self-care is important. It is as much a part of one’s education to learn to do this when needed as academic coursework is.”
Dasey-Morales suggests each member of the CMU community see themselves as an influencer and role model.
“Your behavior and willingness to take personal responsibility for our mitigation efforts will be seen by your peers,” she said. “How each of us responds matters to the whole.”
Living in a pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint, and Dasey-Morales is concerned people will become complacent or overconfident as a result of effective mitigation efforts.
“We cannot pull back on putting safety first. If things go well, it’s because the mitigation efforts are working, not because there isn’t still a serious threat from the virus,” she said.
“Think of it like the instructions we get with an antibiotic prescription. It’s important to take all of the medicine as prescribed, even when we’re feeling better,” she added. “The mitigation is still working, even if we can’t see it.”