St. Edward's University, Graphic by Gracie Watt
In the face of the coronavirus pandemic spreading fatally across the globe, measures to tackle COVID-19 and flatten the curve of reported cases have intensified. Closer to St. Edward’s University, a recent shelter-in-place order was issued by Austin Mayor Steve Adler on March 24 following the similar lockdown measures taken by other states and countries severely affected by the virus. On March 31, the St. Edward’s science department played its part in helping the local community fight back.
Having mobilized 121,000 pairs of gloves, 1,350 masks, 50 N95 respirators and 500 surgical gowns among other key pieces of equipment, St. Edward’s has joined the team set on eliminating coronavirus from the area.
On behalf of the university’s science department, St. Edward’s shared a video on its social media channels of Father Peter Walsh, Director of Campus Ministry, blessing all of the school’s masks and gloves. They will be sent out to first responders in the Austin area to provide valuable personal protective equipment (PPE) in a time of crisis.
Dr. Gary Morris, who has been the Dean of Natural Sciences and professor of physics at St. Edward’s since 2014, explains the department’s decision to donate its resources to health workers.
“Like many, our faculty and staff want to help in this time of crisis,” Morris says.“We had some resources in stock that were not going to be needed on campus this spring. Given the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the medical and first-responder communities, we saw this as an opportunity to help.”
While the need for PPE is pressing and more donations are sure to be welcomed, this donation from the St. Edward’s community will make a big impact. Morris is aware that more gestures of goodwill are necessary as part of a collective effort.
“We need to work together to defeat this virus. It will require contributions and sacrifices from many,” Morris says.
The initial call for PPE from area institutions came from Dr. Amanda Masino, associate professor of biology and Chair of Natural Sciences at Huston-Tillotson University. Masino acknowledges the fundamental importance of these types of donations.
“This kind of mobilization could help save lives by equipping our health care workers with the PPE they need to protect themselves and their patients,” Masino says. “This benefits our mental health individually and our social fabric collectively.”
As an uncertain future awaits, Morris is satisfied to see the university’s spirit shown through in other acts of generosity and initiative.
“I’m very proud of our faculty, staff, and students who are stepping up in this time of community need,” Morris said.
In Masino’s view, the collaboration of universities in the Austin area is a great start at defeating a common enemy.
“It is really clear that the combination of actions we are taking together are our best chance at flattening the curve,” Masino says. “The great news is that all of our Austin colleges and universities — Austin Community College, Concordia, Huston-Tillotson, St. Edward’s and UT Austin — answered the call.”