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Hartford HealthCare to help Connecticut College deal with virus risks

New London — Connecticut College has formed a partnership with Hartford HealthCare that will, among other things, try to mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19 as students return to campus next month.

The expansion of the medical group's Campus Care program will bolster on-campus medical staffing and provide direct access to Hartford HealthCare's sizable medical network.

Conn President Katherine Bergeron said the college also is redesigning its campus and reworking its safety protocols to promote social distancing and provide for the safety and protection of students, faculty and staff. The current plan is to have students and staff tested for COVID-19, or be able to test themselves, twice a week.

"We always say the health and safety of our students is our highest priority. I think this new institutional collaboration is a visible sign of that commitment," Bergeron said during a virtual news conference Wednesday.

Beginning in August, Hartford HealthCare will provide on-campus medical service through the school's Student Health Services and Sports Medicine departments. Through the Hartford HealthCare network, students will have access to 1,000 physicians and specialists with expanded services, increased hours and an integrated medical records system.

"This is a unique moment with COVID-19 and what's occurring across the world today. The impact at our colleges and our campuses is enormous," said Jeffrey Flaks, president and CEO of Hartford HealthCare. "And the sensitivity around infectious disease and how our college campuses need to rework how they operate and how they ensure the safety and protection of everyone on their campuses is very critical."

Hartford Healthcare will focus on-campus efforts around developing protocols to mitigate risks associated with COVID-19 and helping to monitor the student population "to ensure that we are together putting best practices forward," Flaks said.

The partnership also will allow for immediate access to Hartford HealthCare's Go Health Urgent Care office in New London with medical records integrated with the college's health services. Urgent Care Medical Director Dr. Eric Walsh said virtual visits also are available to students.

Conn College Dean of Students Victor Arcelus said that, along with an increase in medical staff on campus and athletic trainers and physicians working with athletes, the partnership provides access to a network of specialists that includes orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine physicians, concussion experts, cardiologists and sports neurology services.

The partnership with Hartford HealthCare was in the works months before the pandemic, he said.

Hartford HealthCare, as part of its Campus Care program, has existing partnerships with Trinity College, University of Hartford and the University of St. Joseph, among others, providing services to 8,000 students and 1,300 student athletes. Hartford HealthCare recently opened a primary care facility in Mystic and has another planned for Waterford. The health care system also operates the Backus Hospital in Norwich, has 30,000 employees and operating revenue of nearly $3 billion, according to a provided statement.

Bergeron said work continues to prepare the campus for the return of students, who can expect a mix of in-person and virtual classes. The college has enlisted an architectural firm for a redesign of spaces to promote social distancing but also connect students in innovative ways.

Protocols for quarantine will be in place for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, with support from Hartford HealthCare staff.

"We are proud to have formed this partnership with HHC, already well known in Connecticut for their innovative approach to student health and now a leader in pandemic support. Our shared vision for excellence in campus health, safety and well-being is ushering in a new era at the college, allowing our students to benefit from the most comprehensive health care network in the region," Bergeron said in a prepared statement.

g.smith@theday.com

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