‘I just wanted to be seen’: Winslow, CPDC adapt for fall term

College clarifies negative COVID-19 test not required for checkup


Sami Mirza

The sign-in counter at Winslow Health Center. In addition to calling ahead and making an appointment, drop-in appointments have reopened at the office in Schultz Hall.

On a Saturday, Sept. 11, Audrey Blarr, ’25, woke up with a cough and a headache. It was the same one she had recently been struggling with, but that morning it was worse than usual. Because Winslow Health Center is closed on the weekends, she had to go to Vernon Express Care, where she was informed she had a double ear infection.

“They told me that there wasn’t really any reason to COVID test me because I had been getting COVID tested (at Allegheny) and I had been negative,” Blarr said.

However, when Winslow called Blarr back the following Monday, they told Blarr that she needed a negative COVID-19 test prior to being examined. Blarr had her biweekly surveillance test scheduled for that afternoon at 3:30 p.m., after Winslow closed for the day at 3 p.m.

“I just wanted to be seen,” Blarr said. “I didn’t want to go to an urgent care (center) again where I would have to wait like three hours. I knew that it wasn’t COVID-related because I had been tested and I didn’t have any change in symptoms.

Blarr was ultimately never examined at Winslow.

“My cough had lightened up within the next few days, like it wasn’t as painful,” Blarr said. “I really just didn’t want to deal with going to Winslow because I was already upset at the fact that they wouldn’t see me that Monday.”

Blarr was not alone in her frustration, as she noted that one of her teammates ran into a similar problem.

“I have a friend on my softball team who had wanted to be seen by Winslow for strep throat, and they told her the same exact thing,” Blarr said. “She was really upset about it and ended up considering going to urgent care as well.”

Dr. Trae Yeckley, associate dean of students for community standards and wellness, oversees the Counseling and Personal Development Center and serves as a liaison between the campus community and Winslow Health Center. They clarified that the official policy has always been that students do not need a negative test before visiting Winslow. Blarr being turned away was the result of miscommunication between Winslow and the Allegheny College Health Agency.

“There’s a lot of new employees down at the Health Center,” Yeckley said.  “So I think there (were) some nursing staff down there who weren’t familiar with our policies and were using policies from their other places of employment. We have since rectified that.”

Yeckley could not disclose specifics on whether any other students had been turned away from Winslow on the grounds of lacking a negative COVID-19 test pursuant to laws regarding patient confidentiality. However, they did confirm — without speaking in detail — that students had issues being seen at Winslow due to COVID-19 tests.

Yeckley’s words echoed part of a Sept. 23 ACHA email to the campus community, in which Dr. Gabrielle Morrow wrote, “You do not need a COVID-19 test before being seen at Winslow (emphasis on not).”

Yeckley added that if any students were told they needed a test, that student should reach out to the administration directly.

“If a student does go down (to Winslow) and they refer them for testing before they come down, (that student) should contact myself at the Wellness office,” Yeckley said. “Or, contact ACHA directly and ACHA will contact Winslow to say, ‘Hey, no, this is what we’re doing.’”

Down the hall from Winslow, the Counseling and Personal Development Center has reopened for in-person appointments this semester, to generally positive feedback from students served by the CPDC.

New students to the CPDC, however, may have longer wait times after the departure of counselor Jacqueline Barco, whose last day was Friday, Oct. 1. Though Yeckley declined to comment on specifics regarding staffing changes at the center, they did say that the average wait time for first-time patients at the CPDC will go from five-to-seven business days to seven-to-nine business days.

“We are working on a plan to put in place to fill any open positions we have,” Yeckley said. “Our goal is to get students in (within) nine business days, and we’re still hitting that goal. If we get to the point where we feel like we can’t hit that goal, we have some backup plans to make sure we don’t get past those nine days on average.”

The CPDC has also brought back drop-in hours, which allows students a one-off session with one of the center’s counselors. Yeckley said these sessions can be useful for a wide variety of students.

“We see a range of students from, ‘I’ve never been in therapy,’ to, ‘I just need to touch base with somebody,’ to ‘Maybe I want therapy and this is going to be my first foray into it,’” Yeckley said. “The more that we’ve advertised them the more utilized they are, and we want students to utilize those hours.”

Yeckley encouraged students to mask if they were not feeling well, even if they thought it was something minor like a cold or a cough.

“We are encouraging that if students feel like they have any sort of symptoms, even if they think it’s just a cold or allergies, to wear a mask and contact the ACHA,” Yeckley said. “But then also making sure that you’re sleeping, you’re eating right, that you’re getting plenty of fluids, washing your hands, things (for) more general health.”