This document has been created by and for the SUNY Oneonta campus, a reflection as to what went well and what lessons were learned during the COVID-19 outbreak in the fall of 2020.
This retrospective analyzes the events of the COVID-19 crisis on the SUNY Oneonta in fall 2020, presenting the findings of key campus stakeholders and their working groups. The presentation describes what went well in each operational area, what we learned from exhibited strengths and weaknesses, and how we build upon positives and address deficits. The goal is a 360⁰ reflection on crisis management retooling, one that makes clear that we have been and always are committed to public health and safety as a foundation for student success. The Introduction summarizes the key issues: the immensity of the rapid-growth outbreak led to breakdowns in communications between divisions as well as within and among many operational units. Emergency Planning, Communications, and Quarantine & Isolation were major areas that need comprehensive and effective strategies, tactics and resources marshalled for continued improvement. There were also real successes, as the campus community adapted to the crisis—always in the interests of student, faculty and staff safety; always in the service of holistic student success, with student learning primary among the criteria for that success.
- Cleaning and Disinfection
- Community Standards / Code of Conduct
- Contact Tracing
- Dining & Retail
- Education & Training
- Emergency Planning
- Events and Activities
- Facilities Modifications
- Health Center Operations
- Health Screening
- Human Resources
- Information & Technology (IT), & Equipment
- Population Density
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Face Masks
- Quarantine & Isolation
- Residence Life (Move-in)
- Student Services
In many ways, the campus community demonstrated the esprit de corps at SUNY Oneonta. However, with major issues impeding crisis management, these acts of service were overshadowed. Emergency Planning, Communications, and Quarantine & Isolation are areas that we must focus our attention going forward on to better prepare for a rapidly spreading outbreak
Although detailed plans were developed prior to opening in fall 2020, it became clear that the plans did not accommodate the reality of a rapidly growing outbreak. We have learned that the campus must prepare for multiple levels of potentially extreme scenarios by creating a robust crisis-management program with a Lead Management Team and an Incident Command Center which operate both virtually and in-person. Clear and distinct roles must be identified for leaders and all team members serving on sub-groups. A comprehensive group of stakeholders should be consulted throughout this planning and implementation process. Procedures involving testing, quarantine & isolation, data flows / data management, and crisis communication must be improved. The crisis plan should be tested and ready for immediate implementation prior to student arrival on campus in spring 2021. Further, protocols for and the consequences of lack of compliance with mask-to-mask requirements or other in-person engagements must be widely shared and enforced. Understanding and communication of the need for flexibility beyond the plan may be required dependent on fluctuations in the pandemic: in short, the plan must be robust, complete, well communicated, and flexible enough for agile adaptation to circumstances on the ground.
Emergency Planning, Communications, and Quarantine & Isolation are areas of particular focus in this retrospective. Due to the rapid spread of the virus, the communications’ infrastructure was quickly overwhelmed and the college’s capacity to properly disseminate critical information was severely hampered. Communications on many levels—including to faculty, staff, parents, students and community constituencies as well as with governing bodies and local public health experts and the NYS Department of Health (hereinafter DOH)—became problematic, sometimes ineffectual, and complicated management of the crisis. We must include the possibility, after full discussions, of the best option for a well-developed crisis communications’ plan, perhaps one following the Crisis Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) model or one similar. Clear and explicit communications’ systems need to be developed and tested prior to the spring 2021 semester. Clear and distinct roles must be identified for leaders and all team members serving on sub-groups. A flow chart of crisis management and chain-of-command substitutions will be created.
The pivot to online learning after the shutdown was largely disruptive to learning and teaching. Student learning must always be the focus after public health and safety foundations for crisis are established. Further, awareness of students’ needs, whether technical, instructional or personal, must be considered—always—as part of all relevant planning so that we combine best practices in online learning with robust instruction and careful community building in virtual classes. Careful thought must also be given to increased faculty workload and the fatigue of all involved in- and outside-of the “classroom.” Concerns about issues such as supplies and infrastructural deficits, staffing shortfalls, variations in adaptations to crisis needs in classes and residence halls (for example) were not always met with swift solutions. To eliminate some friction and learn from the past, terminology, which is new to everyone, should be clearly defined and communicated.
On the plus side, volunteers proved to be a valuable, even an invaluable resource during the fall, and we should build upon that deep well of willingness to serve by crafting service volunteer plans that plan, train, support and direct pre-selected cadres of volunteers. In this way we learn from crisis and better serve our students; in this way we target and adapt as needed. Other areas, such as Events & Activities, Library services, and Student Services were largely functional under pandemic conditions, although even groups we can call “successful” detail in this document their ability to scaffold their successes and take nothing for granted in spring 2021.
Establishing a network of communications and a communication hierarchical structure will be key for successful operations in the future.
What Worked Well
The athletic department worked throughout the summer of 2020 to create the Athletics Resocialization Plan, approved to take effect September 14, 2020 for fall sports. The athletic department followed all set NCAA best practices regarding COVID education and medical clearance of student-athletes, including those for communication with student-athletes about campus and social / behavioral expectations.
The athletic department worked closely with other divisions and staff across campus. For example, Residential Life housed all first-year student-athletes in the same residence halls, per the recommendation of the NCAA. Working with Instructional Technology (IT), the athletic department was able to receive daily responses from student-athletes on their daily screenings, providing opportunities for follow-up with those students.
- Staff met (virtually) throughout the summer to develop the Athletics Resocialization Plan. Coaches met with athletic teams in online meetings throughout the summer to prepare student-athletes for return.
- Through the establishment of an FAQ document, COVID education was embedded in medical-clearance requirements established by the NCAA and by the Team Physician.
- IT tagged student-athletes in the daily health-screening questionnaire. Student-athletes were required to complete a daily screening by 10:00 a.m., allowing for follow-up if needed. Because of the ability to tag the student-athletes there was a 90% completion rate for screening.
While the NCAA recommended housing all first-year student-athletes in the same residence hall, in hindsight, we should consider whether this structure could lead to increased socialization and potential for campus spread. And while these student-athletes signed the Code of Conduct and had regular messaging from coaches, social gatherings persisted, along with increased campus spread. Communications, while generally successful, must also be aligned from the top of the chain-of-command so that all are using the same definitions and following the same guides for timing and consistency of messaging.
What Worked Well
Enhanced cleaning protocols were developed in place, and a temporary cleaner worker pool was established during the COVID surge to meet staffing needs. Hand washing and disinfection products and sanitizer were available across campus as needed, though spot outages of supplies were also reported.
Lessons learned included supplying directions to students in set-aside housing (for those in Quarantine & Isolation) on how to clean and safely sanitize the bathrooms. In the future, we need to do this better by focusing on more and differentiated outreach and education for residential areas—and by including students’ perspectives in all our planning.
For the cleaning staff, a process needs to be developed to ensure delivery of cleaning products to workspaces, especially any temporary workspaces that have been created. In addition, handrails become sticky from constant spraying but incomplete wiping: a follow-up cleaning protocol to mitigate build-up is needed.
What Worked Well
Once it was established and volunteers were trained, the COVID Helpline worked well to answer general questions from students and parents, and to report test results as appropriate. Many communication channels—such as websites related to the re-start plan, the “pause” and the contingency plan—were crafted, approved, and utilized. IT worked quickly to set up the telephone lines for the Helpline. The Care Call Team worked well to connect with students while in Quarantine & Isolation.
- Colleagues who had direct roles in managing the crisis often contributed to the communication efforts. Also, some colleagues who aren’t usually involved in crisis communication helped where needed.
- Volunteers were appointed to Health Center staff temporarily and instructed to follow policy and procedures of the Hotline. One individual compiled the lists of positives and missing results. The management of the list became a full-time job, which took that person away from an appointed job.
- Care Call Team worked well to make sure students felt cared about and attended to while in Quarantine & Isolation.
- A designated email address to send COVID results professionalized the messaging rather than having staff volunteers send results from their personal emails.
Communications need to be clear, accurate, consistent, frequent and timely. The need for an over-arching communications’ system to reach the disparate populations that are involved with different departments (alumni, current students, employees, prospective students, etc.) became apparent. A communication interface between front-line professionals implementing the COVID Restart and Contingency plan and leaders of groups communicating with students and parents (e.g., Call Center, Helpline, Care Callers, etc.) is necessary to provide good information flow and to funnel, perhaps even triage, information requests to professional staff. Moreover, an ongoing communication channel between operational response leaders and those interfacing with students and parents was not available, making it difficult to relay correct and timely information. For example, there should have been a daily briefing between those working in Quarantine & Isolation and those working the Helpline to share information and experience.
Communications from the college involve directed flows and feedback channels from at least the following crucial constituencies, examined below: governing bodies and public health officials; students, on and off campus, whether taking classes in-person in Oneonta or virtually from afar; media outlets, including perhaps especially social media; teaching faculty working in all modes; front-line and other staff, whether faculty or not; community leaders, whether part of governing bodies or not. We can always do better: alignment of and heightened care for accuracy, detail, predictability of messaging —even to the point of redundancy—to all will strengthen our crisis management in the future.
External communications with various media outlets should be managed and controlled such that faculty, staff, students and parents are not receiving announcements from the media or prior to receiving internal communications from the college. Messages about important events should be disseminated to the campus community before they are communicated to the media or social media whenever possible. Parents, students, faculty and staff are connected to one another through a variety of social media platforms and when official communication is slow, they turn to these channels for information which may not be accurate. Learning about what is occurring from the media angered all involved parties and addressing incorrect information from third parties was time-consuming and only complicated efforts to control the crisis. For example, critical phone lines were clogged with non-emergency calls seeking clarification on an announcement that occurred from a media outlet, which pulled vital resources away from the college’s ability to direct these resources to the health and wellbeing of our students and employees / volunteers.
In addition, more effective lines of external communications should have been established with governing bodies, health authorities, and all other State and local partners. The synthesis of information from many sources was extremely challenging and time consuming, which slowed communication. This process must be streamlined in the future to prepare for spring 2021.
Internal communications between the College and faculty, staff, students and parents also broke down due to system stress. During the academic transition to online classes, detailed, accurate communication was not ideally forthcoming. There was significant frustration regarding what was communicated, when it was communicated, and how it was communicated. For example, due to the lack of detailed communications, some faculty and staff were confused over who was required to report to campus during the “pause.” In general, communication to faculty and staff—and thus, to students--needs to be more frequent, though flares from social media rumors or out-of-context activities about other campuses may not be possible to eliminate entirely. In addition, faculty should have been more-routinely included in all communications sent to students about COVID-related plans and actions, though this potential information overload comes with its own potential, inadvertent problems. However, by aligning communications so that faculty and staff receive what is shared with students, reinforcement of essential messaging can be improved.
Members of the local community, faculty and staff need to be in the same loops as well to know they can rely upon a consistent message. Students, staff and faculty involvement in information gathering and input into decision making can and should be improved. There were opportunities for feedback and input, but more is needed.
The President’s Virtual Conversations seemed to be well received and made people feel more like a community; they were also helpful for updates to and from senior leadership, feedback and input from stakeholders who were able to attend. We can build upon this, for example, by administering live moderated chats using Microsoft Teams and have a live chat team with employees skilled in communications and IT support during the meetings. In addition to live, predictably scheduled Virtual Conversations, the President’s Office can formalize the information from such things as Virtual Conversations by releasing formal, published communications that reiterate information conveyed during the live conversations. In short, what worked should be built upon by increasing versions of same and building other modes of information sharing to augment what worked, what is working.
Communicating with parents and guardians needs to be more-carefully implemented to honor their trust and recruit them as partners to reinforce messaging to students. Parents should also be encouraged to have their students reach out to us directly about their challenges so we can resolve issues in real time and avoid extra steps for students. A method to communicate to as many parents as possible through identified platforms and strategies should be developed, ideally in advance of spring 2021.
Most crucial, however, is that there were breakdowns when communicating with students. For example, some students first learned of their positive test outcomes when moved to quarantine. In addition, educational materials regarding processes, procedures and expectations for Quarantine & Isolation were shared with students too late: students did not, for example, receive the Quarantine & Isolation Manual until they were, in fact, entering quarantine or isolation. In addition, there needed to be clearly defined roles as to who was notifying and attending to students who tested positive and needed to be isolated and secured. For example, there were reports that resident advisors informed students to move their belongings outside to await pickup; however, in some cases, staffing shortages and systemic lapses left some students waiting for inappropriately long times. Future considerations include the following:
- Need to have updated contact information for students.
- Greek Life student leadership can help with messaging to their memberships.
- Regular, ongoing communications to student-workers to address the availability of work appointments, how to apply, and how to work remotely are essential to providing an income source for students and ensuring institutional compliance with federal work study regulations.
- Need to communicate to students about the technology they may need to participate in classes, what peripherals, and what they can expect with certain instructional modalities (e.g., synchronous vs asynchronous).
- On the website, summarize and outline information differently to make it easier for parents and students to read and absorb.
- Have an in-depth crisis communications’ plan in place ahead of time for another potential outbreak or crisis.
- More messaging ahead of time to key stakeholders like students, parents, and faculty and staff that promotes social norms. For example, some campuses had summer-long or August public-service promotions about mask wearing and social distancing with their mascots, student leaders, and others. There may be an opportunity for student groups to assist in developing and disseminating this messaging.
- In both the planning and response phases, greater coordination is needed for otherwise isolated groups reporting to a command and control chain. The organizational structure of crisis management should be re-evaluated to facilitate a continuous sharing of information throughout the crisis network in an intentionally designed, coherent and universally understood way.
- A public format to highlight different services available to the campus community should be continued. The President and Provost’s open forums should continue in the spring.
- There should also be greater sharing of the positive experiences that have occurred with students academically and creatively (e.g., displays on website and through admissions, etc.)
- FAQs need to be updated on a regular and frequent basis.
- Quarantine & Isolation Manuals should be posted online and shared with all faculty, staff, students and parents.
- Include Admissions populations (both prospective students and parents) in communications planning.
- When the Care Call Team began, accurate information was lacking, and the volunteers were unsure of their roles and responsibilities. Care Call volunteers should receive copies of the Quarantine & Isolation Manual and have access to the COVID FAQs as soon as possible. Ideally, planning on this can be done before a future crisis.
- Greater attention to overall crisis contingency planning and coordination is necessary.
What Worked Well
Expectations for Student COVID safety were communicated through the Actions for Safety document.
The reporting and follow-up of student behavior was inconsistent across reporting and enforcement platforms. These reporting platforms included the anonymous conduct reports and external communications that lack alignment with police reports. There was also the potential for enforcement inconsistencies on campus, in part because of the ways that resident advisors individually documented students’ behaviors. Lack of coordination at the reporting level led to problems with enforcement at student hearings.
There must be clearer communication of the definitions and expectations of the Code of Conduct policy and possible enforcement, including educating students on SUNY Uniform Sanctions and defining and delivering behavioral expectations to off-campus students.
Recommendations for improvement include to:
- Be clear about the expectations and enforcement for student behavior regarding social distancing and cooperating with contact tracers.
- Provide information to students to educate them on the potential challenges of policing each other.
- Implement a new reporting form and structure to ensure that anonymous conduct reports contain enough information to sufficiently hold individuals / organizations accountable.
- Improve compliance and enforcement in the residence halls among RAs by implementing a clearly defined policy of when to document and what types of actions to document.
- Utilize the SUNY Uniform Sanctions to broadly publicize and eliminate uncertainty about what will be expected or allowed in terms of sanctioning for different types of violations.
- Continue to improve communications about off-campus issues between college and city to reduce confusion and protect both public health and students’ rights.
What Worked Well
- Having the Care Team move the roommates of students who tested positive helped to quell the outbreak.
- Contact tracers were not always able to get accurate information, though informal communications seem to have led to increases in off-campus sites testing many more people than if individuals had not conducted their own contacting.
There is need for at least the following to build upon what we have experienced:
- An educational plan, crafted so that all members of the campus community understand that cooperation with contact tracers is pivotal to managing outbreaks. Returning phone calls to contact tracers or the Health Center should be a requirement for engaging at Oneonta.
- Accountability measures and mandatory attestation as necessary.
- An enhanced understanding that the behaviors of small groups in social interactions can affect the long term on-campus learning environment with a rapid virus spread.
- Greater attention to off-campus social behaviors that impact COVID transmission needs to be factored into all phases of planning, including social-responsibility education, accountability, and policies.
- Enhanced tracing between the DOH level and campus is necessary to mitigate transmission. In preparation for the Spring semester, this communication should begin early and remain constant.
What Worked Well
Dining operations, which included takeout dining only, went smoothly from move-in on August 17 until the spike in COVID-positive cases. Students not in Quarantine & Isolation buildings were able to select from a variety of meals for takeout from Wilsbach Dining Hall. Menus and special dietary needs were communicated to and coordinated by the catering staff.
Social distancing protocols were required as well as mask wearing. Extensive hours of operation from 7:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. reduced the population density within the operation. The Dining Services’ COVID plan was conservative and informed by Sodexo best practices.
ID / Dining Card distribution went according to the established plan. Red Dragon Outfitters and Damascene Book Cellar also had a smooth two-week opening.
After NYSDOH required a switch to meal deliveries in residence halls, Dining Services worked with an outside vendor who was able to prepare 6,000 meals for delivery to residence halls, which was an improvement over initial attempts at handling delivery service internally.
On Sunday, August 30th, Dining Services was informed by the NYSDOH that the campus was required to close all retail and resident dining operation and switch to a delivery service effective Monday Aug 31st. There was insufficient time in the switchover to gather the logistical and material support for feeding 2,000 students three meals a day in 15 different locations. More time was needed to switch from the dining hall operation to full delivery for 2,000 students.
Although communication to students about the change was prompt, there was insufficient time to gather and process students’ dietary preferences. Many students did not respond to Dining Services requests about their special dining needs (e.g., food allergies or specific dietary needs) until Tuesday or Wednesday. As a result, it is quite possible that some students received the wrong kind of meal.
In addition to the logistical challenges in switching to delivery only, meals initially arrived late within residence halls with no oversight of food distribution beyond drop off in place. On September 1st, after discussions within Auxiliary services and with NYSDOH and reference to Supplemental Guidance for COVID-19 Containment at Higher Education Institutions during the Public Health Emergency, NYSDOH agreed to return to a takeout-dining format as that appeared to be a safer option with respect to social distancing and food safety.
Students in quarantine or isolation buildings had meals prepared and delivered by the Catering Department throughout their confinement. There were two deliveries each day: a mid-morning brunch and an evening dinner that also included a continental breakfast for the following morning. Poor communication led to misunderstandings: many students did not understand that their breakfast was included with their dinner and they ate everything during dinner; consequently, they had little or nothing to eat until lunch was delivered.
All quarantined students should be in the same building (or buildings, if two are used); they should not be dispersed across several buildings. Multiple locations for delivery to quarantined students created logistical problems. In general, developing processes specific to at least the following is in the works for spring 2021:
- Working towards having accurate information about students’ special dietary needs prior to arrival on campus will forestall some issues.
- Developing forms to assist students in their menu selections and automating systems as much as possible will help in other planning and implementation concerns.
- Planning for future contingencies should include stored takeout, food service, supplies and materials for rapid mobilization. Written plans with outside vendors with key contact information that outlines emergency food deliveries and pre-arranged plans for assistance from other Sodexo accounts are also important.
- A written plan, coordinated with other actors on campus and off, including roles and responsibilities and the agreement of all parties involved, should be required.
What Worked Well
- A comprehensive sign campaign promoted healthy behaviors such as social distancing, mask wearing, handwashing, etc.
“Actions for Safety”, the publication created by Student Development that established campus safety procedures and expectations for students, was finalized and distributed to all students just one week before residence hall move-in. However, students and all others supporting their needs on campus need to be engaged around behavioral expectations earlier.
- Run a program promoting expectations (mask wearing, and social distancing) featuring the campus mascot and involving Student Affairs, Athletics, Greek life, during the weeks leading up to students’ return to campus.
- Conduct faculty and staff outreach to help acquaint them with the services that are offered as well as support that may be needed.
- Resources for working remotely need to be better advertised to departments.
What Worked Well
Significant planning occurred prior to the fall semester opening. There was much thought and consideration put into a comprehensive re-opening plan. However, going forward, we must ensure that the campus reopening plan is more robust and adaptable to various outbreak scenarios.
In order to be resilient, the campus must create a robust crisis-management program. This would include the development of plans for all levels of outbreaks, from minor to major, including an explosive-cluster outbreak leading to a shutdown. All stakeholders should be consulted in this planning process.
The crisis-management program would entail executing drills using a Lead Management Team operated from an Emergency Operations Center with an Incident Command system. Ideally, this would include both physical and virtual locations, with a clear but detailed organizational structure: leadership, role identification, teams, back-up coverage and reporting hierarchies. In addition to the structure and hierarchy of team members, data must also be carefully managed so information flows without hinderance in pre-determined pathways. A comprehensive list of stakeholders must be involved in crisis management (e.g., local and state governments, UPD, OPD, DOH, UFD, OPT, the campus health center, campus offices, students, employees, and family members / parents).
Operating under the Lead Management Team, an assemblage of campus members should populate sub-groups which represent key areas such as Academics, Communications, Care Team & Hotline Call Center, Dining, Health & Safety, Human Resources, Mailroom / Packages & Miscellaneous Needs, Quarantine & Isolation, Testing, and Transportation. (list not necessarily inclusive of all areas.) Effective communication and data flow are key to the operation of the Lead Management Team and sub-groups. Briefings should be held with great frequency, up to twice per day. Communication tools must be identified and tested.
The crisis plan must be tested and ready for immediate implementation prior to student arrival on campus.
- Need for a robust and well-organized crisis-management program. There is a strong need for an Emergency Operations Center and drilling / practice using the Incident Command System.
- Back-up staffing needs to be part of comprehensive planning moving forward.
- Moving forward, need to plan for potential for rapid spread and have pre-assigned teams identified, trained, and ready to be deployed within a Lead Management Team system steered by the strongest leaders from each of the key areas.
- Campus lacked clarity on the incident-command structure. Chain of command, and the point people, must be identified up front. Everyone needs to be clear on this structure and how data will flow.
- It might be appropriate to establish two command centers: one for emergency personnel and one for information flow and data management. The command center for emergency personnel should be a physical space. The data command center can be virtual but, for both, roles and responsibilities need to be clearly identified.
- Each member of the Lead Management Team should also participate in one of the sub-teams and be responsible for information dissemination between the groups. This structure facilitates the flow of information, creates cross-training and allows for staff development and planning.
- It is imperative that the structure of the Lead Management Team and of each of the sub-groups be identified, with explicit articulation of leadership, roles, and responsibilities.
- Regular briefings (recommended twice daily) should be established to facilitate effective communication.
- Ensure any software or other tools are a good fit for the campus and work well for emergency operations.
- Engage a broad range of constituents capturing all stakeholders in the emergency planning process.
What Worked Well
Overall, most events and activities were executed successfully. Safety protocols were clear, planned, and respected by students and employees. Virtual events were executed successfully. Technology support was available and effective.
- In-person events seemed to go well. Students cooperated with established rules.
- Safety protocols for events were well developed, including the established system at the Information Desk at Hunt Union, which served as a focal point of activity.
- Contact-tracing protocols for events worked well.
- Space utilization for in-person programming was effective for social distancing.
- Virtual programming went smoothly.
- Support for technology in programming was sufficient.
- The on-campus Greek events held virtually worked well for the Greek retreat and beginning-of-the-semester meetings with E-board members, advisors, and committee chairs.
There was one major exception to the general success of events and activities: Greek Rush events should have been delayed and more thoughtfully managed. Attendance management was an issue and IT solutions should have been identified. Tweaks to Campus Connections and execution of events are needed, as is additional attention to technology infrastructure when run in-person and virtually. Investing resources and empowering the SA (Student Association) to develop a more engaging slate of virtual and / or socially distanced activities is an important goal. Updates to safety protocols, including attendance guidelines and group number restrictions, should be thoughtfully considered .
- Restriction to groups will follow State guidelines which are fluid based on infection rates.
- The RSVP system for in-person events was an issue as people would RSVP and not show: this restricted attendance to groups that were smaller than necessary.
- An efficient and clear system for room reservations and event approval should be developed.
- Timings of sorority and fraternity rush activities should be very carefully considered, delayed until further into the semester.
- Need to find ways to monitor participation in virtual programming.
- Need a hybrid model of events and activities to accommodate both in-person and virtual attendees.
What Worked Well
COVID safety risk assessments were completed on campus workspaces and service counters prior to the fall semester and over 800 work orders completed related to facilities modifications and infection control. Modifications included signage, safety screens, reduced density workplaces, disinfection supplies, etc.
Facilities was able to have auxiliary operations ready for opening with the appropriate modifications. Modifications included safety screens and social-distancing measures at point-
Enhance communications with managers as well as with area and employee supervisors and directors in order to improve consistency in PPE distribution and other initiatives.
What Worked Well
The Health Center continued to function through the outbreak despite reduced staffing and very high patient volume. The outdoor COVID testing tent was helpful and may have contributed to no medical staff contracting COVID. Health Center staff were well equipped and prepared with PPE, and there was a large amount of logistical and other support for the Health Center from the campus community.
Health Center staff worked well with the Quarantine & Isolation team and digital thermometers and Pulse-oximeters sent to students in the Quarantine & Isolation residence halls to use for tele-health worked effectively.
Volunteerism from other SUNY statewide health-center personnel was important in making timely notification of results and counselling test-positive students. Provision of temporary Health Center staff through the NYS Office of General Services (OGS) contract arranged through the SUNY system administration was also an important resource during the outbreak.
The Health Center had staffing challenges but was well equipped and prepared with PPE, and there was a large amount of logistical and other support for the Health Center from the campus community. Residential Life provided duty phones so providers in the tent could call DOH, students, and parents. Other departments helped with the effort. For example, the Quarantine & Isolation team provided transportation, Athletics provided massage tables that served as exam tables for the tent; UPD provided walkie-talkies so tent staff could communicate with inside staff; Facilities set up the tent, lab pass-through for samples, ramps for back door, hand-washing station, port-o-potty, fans, etc.
Campus leadership and parent expectations were to provide night and weekend coverage in the Health Center; however, this was not discussed or planned for prior to the outbreak. As a result, Health Center staff were working seven days a week throughout the crisis. Expectations of staff coverage arose from parent and student complaints. Demand for services was extremely high the first few weeks of the semester. Because of high demand, students who were unable to be seen for same-day appointments were put in quarantine until they could be seen and tested the following day. A staffing plan is needed for times of high demand.
In addition, faculty concerned about the need to attend to student health issues did not feel equipped to manage their students.
What Worked Well
Human Resources and IT developed an effective tool for administering the daily health screening, as part of a New York State mandate that all employees and students were required to complete. The survey was developed very quickly and was user friendly.
There was a lack of clarity among employees and students as to who was required to complete the daily screening. There was also no ability to segment who received the health screening. As a result, it was sent to all students instead of just to those required to complete it. Moving forward, the campus should enhance planning regarding screening data and follow up. Lack of positive communication to the community about the mandatory and critical need to have the daily health screening completed led to very low response rates among students.
- There was no way to segment the daily health screening to only the populations required to complete it. For example, it went to all students instead of just local students.
- There was lack of clarity among employees as to who was required to complete the screening.
- Important to plan for what to do with the data, any necessary follow-up, or enforcement of completion compliance with respect to students.
- It is important to articulate why the health-screening information is mandatory and critical to collecting data and keeping the campus safe: need to develop consequences for non-compliance (e.g., counsel employees, lose card access to buildings, etc.).
- Important to define who is monitoring and handling the responses to the daily health screening.
What Worked Well
The response by employees to calls for volunteerism was overwhelmingly positive, whether it was helping to staff the Hotline, the testing center, reaching out to infected students, or any of several other needs. This act alone showed the caring and responsive environment that is SUNY Oneonta. In addition, the temporary reassignment of employees to help staff in needed areas was invaluable to achieving critical needs.
The response for a call to volunteer notwithstanding, there were difficulties: staffing higher-risk areas such as in support of the Quarantine & Isolation team, managing employees’ underlying health conditions related to volunteer areas, and scheduling of volunteers. In addition, there is a need to identify critical areas that may need additional staffing, reassignments of duties from under-utilized employees. Volunteers are not a replacement for staff, yet individuals who want to participate in volunteer activities should be trained prior to the start of spring semester in order to be better prepared.
A third area regarding human resources pertained to which employees were required to work from campus and those who were able to—allowed to—work from home. There were complaints about employees who did not come to campus relying on those who did so to complete work requirements. This resulted in some frustration and resentment among employees. In general:
- There exists a need to identify additional staffing. Particular attention should be given to areas that may experience staff shortages (e.g., Health Center and UPD).
- We should identify those on campus who can serve in key replacement roles outside of their assigned duties should current employees become unable to perform their duties.
- There was great difficulty getting volunteers to interact mask-to-mask with students, especially to support the Quarantine & Isolation Team. This led to overreliance on and exhaustion of the small group of employees who were involved in this area.
- There needs to be a clear delineation as to who is required to be on campus and why, as well as exploring additional options for reassigning a greater number of office employees. Communicating these requirements can help stifle rumors and provide clarity and understanding. This also includes developing policies for supervisory approvals for who can/should work on campus or from home.
What Worked Well
The plan for remote learning at the start of the fall semester was embraced by the majority of faculty, although many were apprehensive about online pedagogy. Departments were able to provide the necessary materials, supplies, and equipment to students. Academic Student Services, which is the umbrella for many academic support departments, pivoted well because of advanced planning to online-only conditions and used the Bookings application to schedule appointments. Parents were involved in some conversations, which helped with positive communications.
- In general, faculty embraced the decision to have the majority of fall courses online, which decreased some disruptions to learning.
- Faculty, although they have grown increasingly more comfortable and confident, are still learning best practices for teaching their disciplines in an on-line environment.
- Academic Student Services pivoted online seamlessly:
- Bookings has been used successfully for student appointments with Academic Student Services;
- Parent additions to the conversations online with students has been positive, enhancing confidence and creating positive side-channel communications.
Expectations and requirements that are specific to remote learning need to be explicit in syllabi, so that students know what to expect. There is a significant increase in workload for faculty (and often for students). This should be recognized, and appropriate resolutions and accommodations need to be identified. Some faculty needed equipment for teaching remotely, and the process for purchasing this essential equipment was cumbersome and slow.
The transition to online learning for the fall semester had many challenges including familiarity with online platforms, effectiveness and available features of online platforms, clarity of terminology, and creating community among students and faculty. The pivot to online learning after the fall outbreak was largely disruptive for everyone involved, and both faculty and students struggled with the transition—though not as critically as in spring 2019.
The workload has been heavy and nonstop, leading to fatigue, which has likely affected performance. Any similar, future prolonged crises will have the same effects. The sudden and early shift negatively impacted learning as students experienced challenges during the shutdown. Faculty have articulated many concerns for spring 2021 mask-to-mask classes, and they need to be addressed, especially for courses which will be taught in this modality. (Mask-to-Mask as a required protocol may reduce concerns expressed over face-to-face options during earlier planning.)
Many faculty articulated concerns with having mask-to-mask classes in spring 2021 for the following reasons:
- Purchase of extra computer applications and / or equipment for courses needs to be included in each syllabus as appropriate—consideration for students’ needs must be considered.
- Concerns for maintaining an optimal learning environment include disruptions to learning from pandemic conditions, and distress or anxiety over COVID transmission among campus members and the health & safety of faculty, staff, and students.
- Essential equipment purchasing was cumbersome and slow. A streamlined process is needed.
- A preference for Zoom rather than Microsoft Teams and Blackboard Collaborate has been articulated by many faculty despite the campus policy identifying the latter two. Training and information about official campus platforms need to be routinely provided to help faculty with incorporation into virtual classrooms
- Faculty recognize the need to create community through the online class environment in addition to the content delivered. It is challenging as no universal standard exists. Language should be developed to encourage student engagement.
- Faculty should be encouraged to participate in trainings for creating community in the virtual classroom that already exists through the TLTC and the Faculty Center.
- Clear and explicit language is needed for all new terminology related to online learning (asynchronous, synchronous, dual-mode, hybrid, etc.). This will help manage student expectations for each course.
- Need a “best-practices” model developed for virtual office hours and this, too, should be clearly articulated on syllabi.
- The disruption from the shutdown for students who were face-to-face in fall 2020 was significant and impacted learning. Student learning needs to always be the priority, so better contingency planning is crucial.
- Clarity of different teaching models is imperative for facilitating student success; precise information should be included on the schedule and communicated to students.
- In class student production assistants could be utilized for large classes and dual-modality courses to lessen faculty workload and, consequentially but more importantly, facilitate more and better engagement with students.
- The chosen modality must be followed once initiated since external guidelines do not allow these types of changes and there could be implications such as to student Financial Aid. (We are not including modality shift planning from mask-to-mask to an all-online model should another shut down occur.)
- A concern exists regarding first-year students taking online courses as they may need extra support. Affinity groups might be part of the solution.
- Faculty, although they have grown increasingly more comfortable and confident, are still learning best virtual pedagogies for their disciplines.
What Worked Well
IT provided timely assistance and equipment to faculty, staff, and students to enable a rapid switch to the online course modality. Moreover, the professional development staffs of the TLTC and the Faculty Center helped faculty and students ease the transition by providing educational materials that demonstrated the use of software and learning management systems.
Surveys that gauged the technology and equipment needs of faculty were not distributed in a timely manner and should have been distributed earlier. Classes should be more spread out throughout the day/week to help both IT and Facilities to better support them.
- Regarding availability of computer labs for student access, there should be advertising about the options available through IT for remote access to needed software.
- Remote access to software reduces the risk posed by opening computer lab spaces. Communication of alternate means of access to the software is needed.
What Worked Well
The operations in the library were generally executed successfully. While there are a few items that need improvement, library staff pivoted to remote services swiftly and effectively. Prior to the shutdown, the Welcome Table worked well, and safety protocols were established and communicated. Library staff used creative solutions to develop remote services for students and faculty.
- Engineering the library for social distance and general health and safety for reopening worked.
- There was a careful scoping of library services (both online and onsite) to best serve students and faculty during the pandemic, and to make for a smooth transition during the pivot to online only instruction.
- The Library Welcome Table, outside the building, helped to communicate necessary information to students and ensure that students were wearing their masks when entering the building.
While decisions that best protect staff while serving the campus community need to be made in consultation with those who best understand the Library as learning space, this must be done in coordination with the other stakeholders and decision-makers on campus such as in Dining Services and Student Development. Hours of operation needed to be modified to reflect pandemic conditions, keeping the safety of all concerned in mind. Students did not always follow safety protocols (e.g., removing masks once inside the Library): consequences for this behavior were unclear and enforcement is a challenge. The development of protocol and procedures for dealing with noncompliant library visitors must be effected and enforced. In sum,
- Significant consideration for the safety and needs of the library staff need to be a priority for reopening the Library, as many issues stemmed from staying open during normal operating hours.
- Allow the Library to determine its own building hours based on staffing abilities and student need—with student need as the primary driver for the deployment of human resources.
- Need coordination with stakeholders including Dining Services and Student Development, as noted above.
- Many students removed their masks after entering the library. The consequences for students and employees not following the guidelines were not effectively established and communicated, making it difficult to ensure compliance within the Library. Moving forward, the SUNY Uniform Sanctions policy and associated consequences should be communicated.
- Small modifications are needed to the social-distancing set-up, based on increased awareness of previous student behaviors.
- Remote services are underutilized and could use more promotion.
What Worked Well
Many staff and faculty were able to efficiently work remotely, and departments were able to stagger schedules to reduce population density while providing services to students. This practice should be followed upon reopening for spring 2021. In addition, there were many positive planning aspects that helped to lower and control population density on campus. For example, altering the academic calendar to eliminate breaks and move students off campus before Thanksgiving; planning for social distancing; and facilities modifications to reduce capacity all helped. The use of the Alumni Field House for 1-Stop student services was effective. The 1-Stop student service helped to share the need for compliance with safety protocols, including:
- Control of population density such that low density was maintained.
- Ensuring mandatory mask wearing.
- Strict social distancing (6-feet distancing in queues and at stations).
- Frequent disinfection of workspaces.
- Separate receptacles for clean / dirty pens.
Double-occupancy dorms may contribute to the rapid rate of viral spread, and in general caused logistical issues with Quarantine & Isolation. Student compliance with respect to social distancing was a major issue, despite requests and directions to maintain social distancing. As such, gathering areas should be reviewed prior to opening and furniture moved or removed as needed. Although the 1-Stop for student services was effective as previously described, improvements could be made, including
- Aligning hours of operation with student behaviors and need, (e.g., most visits occurred after 11:00 a.m., with high volumes between 3:00-4:00 p.m., so no need to open at 8:00 or 9:00 a.m.).
- Improved signage and written as well as visual directives.
- Pre-empt the need for cross-traffic (e.g., students who had other business in the Fieldhouse (e.g., dance class) entered via the 1-Stop because they did not have initial access to the building.
- If 1-Stop needs to accommodate testing, a new location may be needed.
- Departments should create schedules and know what on-campus resources are needed ahead of time so they can maintain an appropriate work schedule with fewer people in the office.
- Work orders were initially a concern (what was actually approved, i.e.) but that was worked through using Campus Connections.
- Improved monitoring of building entries (e.g., Hunt Union or Living Room) should help ensure safety protocols are better met.
What Worked Well
Faculty, staff, and student workers had access to fabric masks. Although students were required to provide their own facemasks prior to returning to campus, disposable masks were supplied to offices across campus, including Residential Life for distribution to students who needed them.
In general, PPE seemed to be available upon request due to large quantities of PPE being procured in advance of fall 2020. However, it is imperative that we identify groups of volunteers or staff who will need PPE and fit test for the appropriate PPE prior to the spring semester.
- The messaging to students and educational outreach regarding compliance with mask wearing and social distancing was weak. In spring 2021 the messaging around mask wearing needs to be stronger, the consequences of noncompliance should be outlined, and both should be reiterated to the point of redundancy. Clear guidelines, expectations, santions and consequences, and systems for the residential community should be established and outlined for all students, staff, and faculty. For example, in the first week of classes this fall, there were many students in the Library not wearing masks even though signs were displayed on the doors that masks were required. Some students seemed surprised that they had to wear a mask when inside buildings. Also, there are employees who are still not wearing their masks properly (e.g., mask not covering the nose). Establish clear guidelines, expectations, and systems for residential community expectations (e.g., mask wearing, physical distancing, etc.).
- Set door alarms at 60 seconds instead of 3 minutes.
- Outline and enforce consequences of noncompliance with all policies related to community health and access to facilities.
- Ensure that twice-daily bathroom cleaning is occurring.
- Signage language needs to be clearer. Students would also often move the specifically placed furniture to be closer together, even though there was signage indicating not to do that. This resulted in Library staff having to put their safety at risk to ask students to put on masks and socially distance.
- Although PPE items were available upon request for designated employees, there was a shortage of hospital gowns due to supply-chain issues.
What Worked Well
The team operating the Quarantine & Isolation residence halls was faced with the mammoth task of moving 400 students to and in some cases back from Quarantine & Isolation. Participation by other departments and volunteers initially was minimal because of campus community perceptions of personal risk, but within several days of the outbreak, UPD officers and the athletic staff and coaches provided invaluable assistance. Once additional volunteer staffing was obtained the operation ran smoothly enough.
Facilities staff were able to multi-purpose one COVID transport van into four usable units overnight, and continued to clean and maintain all the residence halls throughout the outbreak as well as aiding with transport. Batches of students that required isolation or quarantine were identified in groups of 40-50 per day, causing a logistical challenge (e.g., moving students to quarantine and isolation, providing meals, mail delivery, medical transport, etc.). COVID transport vans were used to move students to and from medical appointments and testing.
Problems with managing Quarantine & Isolation through the outbreak had a profound effect on parents and students. We must do better. Staffing the Quarantine & Isolation building though this was proposed during planning.; yet the protocol was not operationalized in a way that could handle the number of positive cases that arose.
The team consisting of staff from Dining Services, Facilities, Conference Center, and the Health Center probably would have been sufficient staffing to attend to the needs of a slow-growth spread. When the outbreak occurred, this level of staffing was inadequate and, despite numerous calls for volunteers, help was not initially available. The team was inadequately sized to provide overnight coverage and supervision of student behavior. Professional staffing in the buildings after hours would mitigate challenges to public health and all the consequences that flow(ed) from it.
A large pool of staff and active participation from Student Development, University Police, and Residence Life is essential. Staffing of these buildings at a 24/7 level is essential. Staffing should be planned in layers; for example, initial front-line staff will need breaks and backup staff will need to step in on shifts).
The process of notifying COVID-positive students, arranging transport, pickup and relocation to the Quarantine & Isolation halls generated the most parent complaints. Complaints included
- Pick-ups for transport through to 1:30 a.m. on the first night.
- Transport staff members wearing hazmat suits and alarming students.
- Short notice given for some pick-ups; long waits for others.
- No female members on the transport staff.
- The lack of 24/7 medical professionals.
- Support information and “rules” emailed to students and not provided in hard copy sometimes not received in emails.
In many cases Residence Life professional staff or Student Development staff were not present when student transports were required, possibly due to the hours or their perception of personal risk. In many cases only RAs were present. Student transports should not occur unless employees/staff are actively involved in the process.
Those who did aid in this emergency did heroic work, but they were too few, and too-seldom given breaks. Identifying staff to do this work before spring must be a priority. The Community of Care Team needs to be acknowledged for the way they supported students in Quarantine & Isolation. Planning for the future should include back-up support staffing, and perhaps a fully staffed command center with banks of phones, two teams alternating days ready to transport students with their belongings to the Quarantine & Isolation buildings, runners to handle meal and package delivery, medication pick up, and more.
It was good to have two residence halls offline for Quarantine & Isolation, but procedures for moving large numbers of students seemed last-minute, particularly for a fast-paced outbreak. For the spring and in the future, more detailed procedures are needed to move students to Quarantine & Isolation should that be necessary: time of day, how picked up, contact prior to van arrival, etc. Students had to wait in some cases hours for van pickup. More work and emergency drills must be done to provide guidance and a better procedure for relocating students to Quarantine & Isolation.
A contingency plan for local hotel quarantine surge placement was in place. Students in those hotels were supported with meals, etc., but protocols need to be in place prior to moving students to off-campus Quarantine & Isolation sites. Concerns over quarantine capacity continued through the outbreak.
There was confusion about Quarantine & Isolation release dates and in some cases DOH did not have students in their systems.
Future recommendations include the following:
- Do not transport students after 10:00 p.m.
- Provide a document to students in isolation and quarantine housing regarding expectations and rules for their behavior, along with consequences. Post document within rooms.
- Engage Residence Hall directors to clearly and compassionately communicate pending transport in advance.
- Supplement transport staff with female University Police Officers or Residence Life professional staff.
- Provide Telephone nurse-line services 24/7.
- Provide each student a bag with drinks, snacks, a thermometer, and contact information for test results, the DOH, and UPD.
- Review and update Quarantine & Isolation policies and procedures based on fall 2020? experiences.
- Pre-set the Quarantine & Isolation residence halls with informational bulletin boards, or information placed directly in each room that provides expectations and contact numbers for emergencies, food, general information, etc.
- Hospitality desks in the residence halls need to be staffed from 8:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. daily. Students have several needs while in Quarantine and Isolation and “runners” are needed for student packages and other errands.
- Suggest holding a floor, wing, or building reserved for the option for students who are in separation and awaiting testing. For example, an option could be to allow a student, without penalty, to quarantine in this separate area if a student makes a bad judgement call and decides to go to a gathering or small gathering that becomes something larger.
What Worked Well
The move-in of students, staggered over a full week, worked well. It was less hectic than originally thought and worked well for Residential Life staff. The “no-show” list was quickly cleared with help from New Student Services and Admissions.
The difficulties surrounding Residential Life stemmed from the challenges of managing changes. For example, students could change their move-in day/time, and that ripple effect impacted orientation requirements. There were missteps in communication that caused confusion to students:
- More clear communication prior to move-in would have helped.
- Students should only be permitted to live in the resident halls if they are taking an in-person class or apply for special consideration. This would greatly reduce residence hall density, allowing students to spread out while reserving 2-3 residence halls for isolation and quarantine.
- Double-occupancy dorms contributed to the rapid rate of viral spread, as noted elsewhere, and in general caused logistical issues with respect to Quarantine & Isolation.
What Worked Well
Overall, the 1-Stop-Shop model was well executed and successfully served students. Contact information was effectively collected for tracing, while serving 659 individuals over 792 visits. Wait time never exceeded ~15 minutes. The 1-Stop Shop included representatives from five offices: Academic Advisement, Financial Aid, Registrar, Student Accounts, Career Services and Student Employment. Safety protocols were established and were executed effectively. The transition to remote services was smooth and experienced more frequent use by students.
- The 1-Stop Shop was well received and well organized.
- Provided front-facing services from on-site staff in one location located in the Alumni Field House.
- Information was provided to students for offices not represented at 1-Stop Shop: Accessibility Resources, Career Development, Center for Social Responsibility & Community, International Education, and Student Learning Center.
- Contact information was collected for all visitors.
- The 1-Stop Shop set-up allowed for strict adherence to campus safety protocols: low density, mandatory mask wearing, strict social distancing, frequent disinfection of workspaces, separate receptacles for clean / dirty pens, etc.
- Visitors appeared to be satisfied with the service.
- Transition to remote work and student service was efficient and the number of appointments increased.
The hours of the 1-Stop Shop should be modified to align with student behaviors and needs, as most visits occurred after 11:00 a.m. The signage needs to be updated to improve quality, visibility, and clarity using both visual and written directives. Better flow of visitors to the space needs to be organized, since not all people coming to the Alumni Field House are visiting the 1-Stop Shop. The check-in procedure needs minor modifications for repeat visitors.
When changes are implemented, visitation increases suddenly; management of staff prior to any announcement of a change should be considered. Continuation of the 1-Stop Shop is encouraged but should be combined with virtual services and possibly a chatbot feature for those students and employees who are uncomfortable with mask-to-mask. Representation by other offices should also be considered.
- Continue with the 1-Stop Shop to support students.
- Future considerations for the 1-Stop Shop:
- Align hours of operation with student behavior and needs: most visits occurred after 11:00 a.m., and especially between 3:00-4:00 p.m., so no need to open at 8 or 9 a.m.
- Improve quality and visibility of signage and written, visual directives.
- Pre-empt the need for cross-traffic: students who had other business in the Fieldhouse (e.g. dance class) entered via the 1-Stop Shop because they did not have access to the building initially.
- Continue with a combination of virtual, mask-to-mask, and a chatbot feature.
- Front-facing student offices were overloaded with questions when changes were made quickly.
- Blackboard links to these services would increase accessibility for students.
- Corq app check-in a little clunky for repeat visitors.
What Worked Well
Wastewater testing revealed positive tests for COVID late in move-in week, indicating Hulbert Hall as the site. Actions were taken by the Health Center to mobilize pool tests for the 500 student residents. As off- and on-campus positives mounted, SUNY Upstate Medical provided an additional 3000 test kits, and a pivot was made from small-scale randomized survey-able testing to large-scale mass testing.
Many areas of campus operations pitched in to achieve a successful scale up of pool testing. There was a gratifying response from campus volunteers (72) to work the testing stations. All volunteers were trained and provided with PPE.
The Chase Physical Education Building was busy over the first weekend, but the long lines and small space created safety concern. The testing events were moved to the Alumni Field House and ran well and offered separate entrances and exits, and a larger and better facility for testing. Health Center and Facilities leadership ensured that students waiting for tests were kept calm and that volunteers were properly trained.
The flow of the test sites was well laid out, social distancing was possible, and the space was well ventilated. No staff or volunteers contracted COVID despite dealing with large numbers of students who were ultimately found to be COVID positive.
After startup and refinement control, the testing center was successfully transferred to the Athletic Department staff. They have continued to oversee the testing center professionally.
Capacity for COVID testing at the Health Center proved insufficient; facilities not designed for this size crisis and supplies were in short supply. System-wide procurement of the Sophia 2 analyzer quick tests fell through and media for the BD analyzer was bought by the Defense Production act. The Health Center started the semester without the capacity to rapid test.
Various commercial labs promised 2-day turn arounds on PCR tests but were unable to deliver. For example, some PCR results arrived 10 days after testing. A myriad of problems with cost, test availability, and turnaround time impeded the routine, timely use of COVID tests.
Communication and information to faculty, staff and students about what pool testing is and the process of pool testing more generally could have alleviated many concerns and misunderstandings. Communication should have clarified cost and insurance expectations/ coverage. Communications’ coherence would also have allowed us to educate students, especially, about what to expect if notified that they had tested positive.
Receipt of lab results at night and the need to notify students in large numbers and at late hours was a problem that needs to be addressed. DOH’s initial position that students be moved immediately to isolation after a positive test result was verified caused a great deal of stress and exhaustion for staff, students, and parents. Continue to work with SUNY Upstate Medical on improving testing and reporting logistics.
The campus needs to be transparent about the testing plan: there was a great deal of criticism from the community over extra testing even though the CDC was not recommending it at the time.
- Need to develop a plan and train personnel to deliver positive results, counsel students, and confirm arrangements for transport to Quarantine & Isolation.
- The addition of a counselor at testing sites would have been helpful as several students expressed concerns about anxiety as they entered the area for testing.
- Need to plan for mass testing as well as small scale pool testing; set-up in Alumni Field House works well.
- Mandating off campus students to be tested could have helped isolate infected students quickly. There was confusion about whether such testing could be mandated for this population.
- Continue to operationalize the regular testing plan as the bi-weekly pool testing has worked well.
- There were many questions surrounding the decision not to test students upon arrival to campus.
- There was confusion among employees about testing protocols, cost, insurance coverage.
- The case data the college received and reported didn’t always agree with case data publicly reported elsewhere. This raised questions and doubts about the college’s management of the situation.
What worked Well
- Campus vans were pressed into service to transport students to and from medical appointments and back from Bassett Hospital.
- Oneonta Public Transport shut down during the outbreak: a plan is needed to provide transportation to students who remain on campus and require medical attention, prescriptions, etc.
- It would be helpful to receive the list of positive students earlier in the day to prevent late-night moves and organize transportation earlier if at all possible.
- If the same process is used with vans, additional van drivers are needed.
What Worked Well
The response by employees to volunteer was overwhelmingly positive, whether it was for helping to staff the Hotline, at the testing center, reaching out to infected students, or in any of several other areas. This act alone showed the student-centered, caring and responsive environment that is SUNY Oneonta.
Volunteers were utilized to assist the Call Center. The systems in place worked well to support the volume of calls. Scripts and adequate information for Helpline volunteers were provided. Helpline volunteers were kind and caring in supporting callers who were often frightened, confused, or angry.
- Telecommunications, Information Technology, and the Call Center are critical resources.
- The campus was able to provide a remote call center, a remote IT Service Desk and COVID helplines (with remote agents) with already available resources.
- Mitel Softphone, Call Center system and Teams worked well to support remote call queues.
- Microsoft Teams worked well as platform for sharing information, scripts, etc. with the Helpline volunteers.
- Callers to the Helpline were frightened, confused and angry. They needed calm reassurance and accurate information. The volunteers on the helpline were kind and caring in supporting callers and one another, but this negatively impacted volunteers and staff. Greater consideration for support of those in front-line, high-contact areas should be part of future planning for any emergency.
The major take-away is that we need to identify, organize, and train designated staff as part of their duties in advance, so that they are “at the ready” when needed. All student needs should be considered and planned for when organizing staff and any need to augment with volunteers. Clearly identified team leaders need to be identified so volunteers have explicit direction. We also need more staff to serve on various teams to assist students more effectively. In addition, we should provide an option for volunteers to participate in remote assignments. Everything possible should be done to make volunteers feel safe, including providing proper protective equipment. Finally, medical and testing questions that involve confidential information should be directed to volunteers who are medically trained.
- Increasing staffing
- Organize volunteers ahead of time onto specific teams.
- Training must be provided for volunteers prior to an emergent situation with a predetermined script and set of FAQs to assist in providing services.
- Need to test fit volunteers for n95 masks in advance of an outbreak.
- Teams needed for driving vans, processing and delivering packages, residence hall check-in and check-out processes, helpline / care calls, and Quarantine & Isolation support.
- Tech support needs to be readily available for helpline volunteers.
- Automating the residence hall check-in and check-out processes should be explored for future move-in and move-out periods.
- Non-essential employees should be considered beforehand as an ideal cohort for identifying volunteers.
- Calls for test results / medical questions should be sent to a helpline staffed by trained medical personnel as staff and volunteers were uncomfortable sharing test results and confidential information. General questions should be directed to staffed personnel.
- Answering helpline calls is stressful and that needs to be considered when training/ scheduling volunteers. The helpline needs to be staffed to accommodate lengthy calls.
- Suggest building a “Community of Liaisons” – folks out in departments that help others in their departments or other departments with technology. Create regular (quarterly?) meetings to talk with them about what’s new and hear their issues and challenges.