Furiously watering eyes and an intense urge to sneeze follow the sharp sting of a cotton swab practically invading the nostril. It is a feeling many of us have come to accept in the last few months as a part of the Commitment to Community Health. Regular COVID-19 surveillance testing continues to be the foundation of Colgate’s decision-making strategy regarding community health this semester, so it is not uncommon to wonder what exactly happens to all the sample swabs that eventually produce test results on our screens. This is where Mary Carol Yoshino, a Test Site Manager at Colgate Health Services, comes in.
“I make sure that all equipment is working properly, supplies are available and the specimens are properly bagged and boxed for FedEx to pick up at 3:15 p.m. daily. Our specimens are sent to Nashville that night for processing,” Yoshino said.
Yoshino leads and works together with an efficient team of Colgate students and staff at 113 Broad St. to get students, faculty and staff through weekly testing as orderly and timely as possible.
“I value their commitment to keeping themselves and others safe and recognize their time is valuable,” she said. “I also recognize that the testing is not optional, and I try to make their process with us as seamless and efficient as I can.”
In addition to her team at the testing site, Yoshino works in conjunction with Dr. Ellen Larson and Dr. Merrill Miller at the Student Health Center. Although she was hired for the particular position of test site manager earlier in the academic year, Yoshino is not a stranger to Colgate Student Health Services.
“I have worked part-time with student health services here both as a registered nurse and later as a family nurse practitioner for much of the past 30 years, particularly on weekends, while I held full-time positions elsewhere,” Yoshino said.
Yoshino retired from her full-time position at Bassett Healthcare in Hamilton five years ago, but her life has hardly slowed down. Outside of her current position as the test site manager, Yoshino is an active volunteer of the Red Cross and has been committed to this humanitarian cause since her retirement.
“Though the pandemic has changed many things, disasters continue to occur all over the United States in the form of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires, mass shootings and COVID-19 deaths and illnesses,” Yoshino admitted. “The mission of the Red Cross has not changed but how we meet the needs of our clients has.”
Yoshino also enjoys gardening, cooking and reading. She is particularly excited to grow vegetables and redo flower beds as spring draws near.
When asked about her thoughts on the Colgate community’s response to COVID-19 and the Commitment to Community Health, Yoshino beamed with approval.
“I could not be more proud of how they are conducting their plan,” she exclaimed. “Colgate has spent much time, effort and money in the surveillance of the health of the Colgate community. They have set the bar in this state and the nation as to how to do it right—just ask the Aegis lab company doing our specimen testing.”
This optimism carries over in Yoshino’s thoughts on the current COVID-19 vaccination efforts in New York State.
“I have great faith in the vaccines! They will work but, we have to have enough people vaccinated to create herd immunity,” she emphasized. “Meanwhile as we make that happen, all must adhere to wearing masks, washing hands, socially distancing and getting vaccinated. We must be encouraging of one another to do the same. No vaccine prevents 100% of the virus at this time. Science has not yet shown that being vaccinated prevents you from an asymptomatic illness or a carrier of the illness.”
Yoshino’s words of caution echo daily messaging from Colgate’s community health team as well as the administration. Now that we have reached Gate 4 and vaccinations are becoming increasingly accessible, it is important for each of us to take a step back and recognize that the pandemic is not over yet. We need to follow community safety practices with continued vigor.