What’s Your Approach to COVID-19 On Your Campus?
by Ray Jensen, C.P.M
Old movie buffs will easily remember Clint Eastwood’s iconic line from Magnum Force. “You have to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?” Good question. It’s also a good question to pose to many college and university administrators as they implement programs to try to protect students, faculty and staff from the single greatest health and safety challenge of our time. Many institutions have had pandemic response plans in place for a decade following the Avian Flu scare. The plans are fine. The problem is that COVID-19 hasn’t been behaving the way our medical and science community expected it to. The result has been confusion, finger pointing, crippling business closures, a lot of infected people, and death. Hoping to get lucky is not a plan.
For some colleges, in particular smaller institutions or those with smaller endowment funds, the inability to stay open for a full compliment of their students poses a legitimate existential threat. If they cannot protect their community and instill confidence in their students, faculty and staff, they face an uncertain future at best. At worst, they have no future.
Nearly all colleges and universities have testing programs in place. That is essential. The question that must be asked regarding testing is whether it is focused on the people who are most likely to be infected or whether it is based on random testing within their community. If it is random, the testing program is an example of a program based on hoping to get lucky. Not a confidence builder.
A program to address and hopefully contain COVID must have three components: testing, contact tracing and cleaning or targeted sanitation. It’s the proverbial three-legged stool. If you don’t have all three legs, it can’t stand. It appears that those institutions that have implemented contact tracing and enhanced cleaning along with testing are on the right path. Unfortunately, most of the sanitation efforts are not targeted to areas with the highest potential of infection. The actual cleaning products and cleaning methodology may be very good, but is it focused on the physical areas that have been occupied by infected students and staff? If not, the cleaning program may not be effective.
I have held contact tracing for last, because if done properly, it is the single component that can make the testing and cleaning effective. Unfortunately, the contact tracing landscape is filled with companies and approaches that are untested or based on technologies that really can’t pinpoint individuals most likely to be infected. Some of them utilize cellular technology that isn’t effective to trace contacts in multi-story facilities; requires the use of an app that must be downloaded by at least 60% of the population to be slightly useful; and may compromise personal private information. This isn’t an option for colleges and universities.
E&I was ahead of the curve on this one. They developed a contract with Kiana Analytics for a contact tracing solution that has been operational before many of us heard the term contact tracing. Their patented solution has been used by the Department of Homeland Security and by companies around the world. The modifications required to make it a great solution for colleges, universities, as well as many businesses were addressed quickly. The Kiana solution enables an institution to determine which of its students and staff have had the greatest amount of contact with an infected person, and from that information, develop a targeted, data-based approach to testing. Not random testing; targeted. No wasted testing efforts.
Additionally, by knowing the exact spaces that an infected person has occupied, and for how long, the surgical sanitation program also has an information-based focus. The institution now has a program that addresses all of the necessary components and is based upon the people who are infected. It is a program that is focused upon the people in your specific community, working, living and learning in the space that you are responsible for. That is a program that can instill confidence in your community and add to the reputation of sound management for your institution.
You may want to reach out to Kiana or to the team at E&I and find out the other benefits of their solution. Don’t base your approach to this pandemic to feeling lucky.
About the Author
Ray Jensen is the retired Associate Vice President & Chief Sustainability Officer at Arizona State University. He is a Past President of NAEP and served as a director on E&I’s Board of Directors.