Pandemic Problem Solvers

We asked you to share your stories of conquering COVID in your industry and in your corner of the world. Please continue to send your stories to denmag@denison.edu so we can share the Denison impact.

Pandemic Problem Solvers

The Life of Oscar

In regular life I teach in-person, face-to-face middle school from August until June and a July summer camp every year. Life hasn’t been regular, however, for quite some time. Leading up to the start of summer camp in July of 2020, I attended a Zoom conference to discuss how to do the thing no one had done yet: bring the students back to school.

On the Zoom conference, we discussed how much time we could spend near a student’s desk. We discussed when masks would be required (always), and which situations call for face shields and gloves. We discussed removing all the shared items and putting students in their own little pods at their desks, with “everything they need” for the day.

We opened camp successfully, and one day on the playground, some students and another teacher found a bunch of tadpoles living inside a trash can, in some standing water. The tadpoles were rescued from the garbage and transported into our classroom in a big bucket. At one point there were an estimated 3,000 tadpoles in that bucket, but only four had survived. We moved them to plastic water bottles, where they continued to die off. Except for one. He became our class pet. My class named him Oscar, to commemorate his garbage can birthplace. We even wrote a children’s book about his survival against all the odds.

At the end of summer camp, there had been no active COVID cases on the school grounds. A lot of mothers made the tough decision to send their kids to school in the fall. Others made the tough decision to keep them home. Oscar was still alive and living in a luxurious new aquarium in my classroom. He sprouted little nubs where his front legs would soon appear, and on the morning of August 31st, I walked into my classroom to teach a new class of students for the year and discovered that Oscar had become a tiny green tree frog over the weekend.

Despite all odds, he transformed. Watching his metamorphosis and worrying over his tiny little life gave me what I needed to be good enough in the time of COVID, and to be good with good enough, in a time when we don’t know all the answers.

All any of the students (or other teachers, for that matter) want to do is huddle around the aquarium together and watch Oscar attempt to catch fruit flies. It’s nearly impossible for everyone to stay six feet away from everyone else all the time, but in the end, it’s not the contact I fear most. It’s the distance.

Elise Albrecht ’06
Atlanta, Ga.


Shots in the Dark

As a graduate from Denison, I have undertaken a position of paying it forward with deeds and attitude. So when COVID hit, I volunteered to be a candidate for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine program. I can report that I did receive the actual vaccine. Two injections with zero side effects. The senior flu shot administered two days ago produced soreness, none from COVID vaccine.

Strongly recommend getting vaccinated.

Ben Nicola ’69
Orange Park, Fla.


New Job, New World

My partner, Eric Barnes ’14, started his first job as a physician assistant the second week of March at a hospital in Prince George’s County, Maryland. He is super humble so he wouldn’t submit this himself, but he has been an absolute rock star with navigating the challenging uncertainty of the COVID chaos, while also navigating the challenges of a first job at a new hospital. I can’t imagine how hard it is to help patients, and their families, on the front lines. He has been working 12 to 16-hour shifts trying to help his patients and co-workers with no complaints. To say I’m proud would be an understatement. Thanks for featuring these COVID heroes!

Paige Robnett ’14
Washington, D.C.


One Foot in Front of the Other

I moved to New York City from Ohio in the spring and started a one-year fellowship as an advanced practice acute care provider at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital. COVID has placed a significant burden on cancer treatments and made a massive impact on cancer patients. I have been advocating for the safety of my cancer patients since the pandemic began. They are an extremely vulnerable population that has suffered immensely. Cancer is already awful, but COVID and cancer together can be devastating.

I was recently nominated and received a Spirit Award from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Columbus Marathon for this work. The marathon was cancelled this year, but they still chose to select people who they felt deserved the honor. I don’t know how I managed to qualify as there are so many others working diligently to save lives during this awful pandemic. However, I ran cross country and track at Denison and still run daily and compete in races. I graduated PA school last December and moved to NYC from Columbus and started my career in the middle of the pandemic. It has been and continues to be an experience I will never forget. In the last six months, when I am exhausted and run down—I am only motivated to run because the patients I care for can’t—they are fighting just to survive.

Michelle W. Clark ’13
Dublin, Ohio


Field of Dreams

The professional sports industry relies heavily on large gatherings and lots of travel, and its normal operations were disrupted by the onset of the pandemic. Nearly every league across the planet had to suspend their season in March to determine how to continue competition safely.

This was a massive issue for the professional sports industry, and for my job, specifically. As a business development specialist with the USL Championship, a second division men’s soccer league, my job is to fill stadium seats.

In mid-June, the league’s board voted to resume the season with an altered and shortened competitive structure on the weekend of July 11. About a week later, we re-opened the office after three months working remotely in order to accomplish everything that needed doing to be prepared for the restart. We have a brand-new stadium that was supposed to open in April with sold-out crowds of 15,000-plus, and we were determined to still have as memorable a grand opening as possible.

With the help of the stadium management partner, we implemented new health and safety measures for live sporting events during the pandemic, including health screen and temperature checks at the gate, mandatory face coverings, sanitizer stations, and plexiglass barriers at points of sale.

On July 12, USL resumed its season and opened the stadium with about 20 percent spectator capacity, a little over 3,000 fans. We became the first soccer league in the country to resume play in home markets—and their market was one of the only cities in the world at the time to allow some fans to attend games. That match was broadcast on ESPN2.

In total, USL held 14 games with spectators over the course of three months, eventually increasing the live fan base to 33 percent. The team itself? Louisville City FC went 13 games undefeated before being eliminated at home in the conference final by the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Gabe Schenker ’18
Louisville, Ky.

Published December 2020