Campus COVID Planning for Spring 2021: Don’t Let Your Guard Down
Although COVID-19 vaccines have begun to arrive, universities must continue to innovate and address the pandemic that will continue to pose problems for many months.
As the initial distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations is currently underway, now is the time for institutions of higher education to start planning for vaccine management for the Spring 2021 semester. Careful monitoring will be expected since, unlike the flu vaccine, two shots over the period of several weeks will usually be required. Unique storage requirements and other logistical challenges will also call for a much higher degree of management than previous vaccination efforts.
With phased approaches for a vaccination, healthcare workers and first responders, as well as long-term care facility residents and employees, will be given priority. It is unclear when college student populations and most faculty will be in line for vaccination.
In the meantime, health checks and contact tracing remain the most effective way to monitor symptoms of COVID-19 and help limit the spread, all while protecting individual privacy and confidentiality. Higher education institutions need to know the who, what, when, where and how of their COVID-19 infections and coordinate pandemic response across the campus from custodial departments to leadership to ensure campus community safety and limit the impacts to the education and research missions of the institution.
COVID Tracking Technologies Need These 3 Features
With various features and capabilities of contact tracing technology, the following are three key functions to keep in mind when implementing contract tracing:
- Ease of Use: A key component when introducing new technology is simplicity. Students, faculty and staff require an application that is simple to use with limited time required and provides accurate results.
- Privacy Protection: Privacy laws and regulations may impact an implementation of COVID-19 tracking. An application that maximizes privacy protection will provide a sense of security but also safely protect individuals from virus exposure.
- Alert and Notification: Communication and unified messaging supports specific protocols and procedures that are in place. Whether a student, faculty, or staff member receives notification to freely move around campus when completing a wellness check to contacting health services for further information when reporting symptoms, alerts and notifications provide clear guidance and safety.
Collaboration More Important Than Ever
Preparation and contingency planning remain key to successfully reopening campus, but it takes a collaborative approach to protect and ensure the safety of its people. With duty of care being a top priority, it also requires flexibility. Higher education COVID-19 task forces, often including stakeholders who traditionally have not been involved in crisis response, continue to ensure that recommended guidelines and requirements are communicated with unified and error-free messaging to limit confusion among parents, students, faculty, staff and visitors.
Collaboration tools have become more valuable than ever with the increase in telework and remote learning but also has stretched IT operations with growing cyber threats. Most organizations have had little virtual crisis management training, so using an intuitive and easy to use system will ensure participation and collaboration.
It can be challenging to manage multiple events and obtain a common operating picture with numerous collaboration tools to execute COVID-19 reporting, exposures, partial/full campus quarantines, building closures and reopening, along with sending out clear and concise messaging. As contingency plans are well-established for ramping down or returning to remote operations, it is best to operate on one critical event management platform.
James Podlucky is Everbridge’s industry solutions manager, center of excellence. The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.
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