With the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus making international headlines, a team of executives at a local branch of an international chemicals company launched an initiative to assess the risks of traveling to the company’s locations in China and Taiwan.
The team quickly realized they needed to bring in an outsider to educate them on the virus, and Mary Bellotti ’22 answered the call.
Bellotti, a sophomore public health major with a communications concentration, worked as a legal intern at Elementis in East Windsor, New Jersey last summer. Knowing her background as a public health major, the team asked her to return to present a primer on COVID-19 to inform the company’s impending travel plans.
“This project was so exciting because I got to share my knowledge from TCNJ with a group of people on an executive board of a global company,” says Bellotti.
She reviewed the company’s plan, which required a team of employees to travel to China at the beginning of February, and identified the associated risks, like impending cultural holidays. With Chinese New Year at the end of January, Bellotti explained, many people would be traveling to and from China to celebrate, causing the virus to spread.
“People may not know they have it due to the two-week incubation period,” says Bellotti.
In her presentation, she compared and contrasted the new virus to SARS, a similar respiratory disease caused by a human coronavirus that made global headlines in 2003. She advised the Elementis team to take simple, yet effective steps, like using hand sanitizer frequently, wearing face masks, and sitting in window seats on the plane with the air vents on whenever possible in order to avoid contracting the virus.
Bellotti credits her TCNJ classes with public health professors Marina de Souza and Carolina Borges for giving her the tools and the confidence to give the presentation.
Upon considering Mary’s advice and closely monitoring the virus’ spread, the team at Elementis canceled their trip to China and Taiwan.
For Mary this project is a stepping stone on her way to becoming a public health administrator.
“I have high expectations for myself and these projects and opportunities are what are going to help me reach my goals,” she says.’’
— Sarah Voorhees ’20