EKU’s COVID-19 Task Force response to tackling daily pandemic changes

CDC guidelines for combating the spread of COVID-19. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov.

The Eastern Kentucky University COVID-19 Task Force continues to reanalyze and address daily changes in campus data, credible information, national statistics, latest enforced mandates and recommended protocols to ensure a safe learning environment.

Ryan Baggett, dean of EKU graduate school, said that the task force is composed of approximately 25 experts from across the university volunteering to address issues and collect information based on their own professional knowledge. The team consists of professors, specialists, management, faculty and staff from various campus offices, including academic affairs, public and student health, contact tracing, nursing, isolation and quarantine, emergency management and more. The 2020 and 2021 Student Government Association president and vice president also provide a student perspective on the task force.

“The safety and well-being of our campus community goes into every single decision that we make,” said Baggett, representing academic affairs on the EKU COVID-19 Task Force.

According to Baggett, the group, established in spring 2020, is used as an idea generator and think tank to confront the everchanging pandemic landscape. 

“For academic affairs, it is important that we create an environment that is a safe space where students, facility and staff can interact with each other,” said Baggett. “The latest announcement is that professors need to complete a seating chart for each class because, if we need to have a contact tracing event, we know who was sitting next to who.”

Due to striving with the understanding of a global pandemic, the group had several Zoom meetings a week at the start of the pandemic in the spring 2020 semester and throughout the 2020-21 academic year. The group continued meeting until the 2021 summer semester, when mandates and guidelines were relaxed, causing task force meetings to cease. Two weeks before the fall 2021 semester, the Zoom meetings reconvened once a week due to a fourth wave of the coronavirus.

Although the content is dynamic, the format of each meeting remains the same. During the meeting, the COVID-19 task force director, Bryan Makinen, provides a national and EKU trend update of the COVID-19 positivity rates. Every expert attending the meeting then provides the latest information from their entity so that everyone is up to date. Questions regarding the entities are addressed after updates are completed. 

The team is constantly reanalyzing decisions and remaining flexible when making alternate plans. The experts base decisions on quality information from EKU’s contact tracing and data, as well as city, county and state data from the health department.

“Planning in regard for contact tracing has remained the same, we have been continually doing tracings since we started in the summer of 2020 and updated the guidelines as they have changed,” said Karen Peavler, director of business operations at EKU Center for the Arts and contact tracing representative on the EKU COVID-19 Task Force.

The expectation for the fall 2021 semester was to return to a normal university experience for students, faculty and staff. Baggett said that, other than wearing masks in all indoor campus facilities, the university achieved a very close to normal environment.

“We use the term ‘One Eastern’ in almost everything we do here at EKU. That is the beauty of EKU rather than other universities,” said Baggett. “We always called EKU a big university with a small-town feel. We really care about our people and our people are our biggest asset.”

To learn more about COVID-19, visit staywell.eku.edu/. To learn more about the university’s vaccine clinics, visit staywell.eku.edu/vaccine. To locate the COVID-19 self monitoring form to report if you have came in contact with someone who has COVID-19, are feeling symptoms or have traveled in the past 14 days to areas with an ongoing community spread of the virus, visit staywell.eku.edu/covid-19-coronavirus-monitoring-form.

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