While many universities decided to remain virtual for the fall semester, Wittenberg has been able to hold the fall semester in person, a difficult decision made possible by the work of Wittenberg’s COVID-19 Response Team.
The Response Team is made up of seven staff members and six senior staff members. Among the senior staff members are co-chairs Dean of Students Casey Gill and VP of Finances and Administration Robert Young.
According to Casey Gill, the number one goal of the Response Team is to “reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep the campus safe.”
Co-chair Rob Young was focused on maintaining the Wittenberg experience.
“We want to let Wittenberg be as reasonably close to what Wittenberg is regularly and that’s in-person classes,” Young said.
Gill agreed with Young about the value of on-campus learning.
“We’ve tried to create as much as an experience in person for our students as possible knowing that it’s not an ideal situation of what students want,” Gill said. “We tried through our decision making to give them the best shot at it as possible.”
In fact, Casey Gill believes that the best decision that the Response Team has made was the decision to conduct in-person classes for the fall semester.
“There were a lot of different risks to evaluate in making that decision. We made a commitment to try to bring everybody back unless they wanted to be approved for remote learning or work,” Gill said. “For the most part, it’s been a success in the middle of a pandemic.”
One of the successes this semester was that the spread of the virus was limited to social gatherings.
“All of our contact tracing will show that any spread of COVID on campus has not been tied back to our structured and academic settings,” Gill said. “Any of the spread has happened in social situations or in living environments for students.”
When asked about their individual duties as members of the COVID Response Team, Young attested to Gill’s capabilities.
“Casey does everything,” he said.
Gill laid out her responsibilities as a senior member of the team.
“I’m working on student health protocol, how do we communicate updates with students regularly, how do we manage living environments, how do we manage guest policies, how do we manage compliance expectations from a conduct perspective, how do we manage dining, how do we get students food if they’re in quarantine or isolation, how do we make sure that students are aware of the policies and procedures has been pretty much a bulk of my responsibilities in collaboration with Rob,” Gill said.
In addition to information from the Centers for Disease Control and the Ohio Department of Health, the COVID Response Team has three medical doctors on their staff, all of whom are Wittenberg alumni. Dr. Alan Stewart (‘69) is a retired family physician, Dr. Dave Hopper (‘63) is a retired pediatric immunologist and Dr. Laurice Moore (‘95) is a pediatrician.
This team of doctors has been present to guide every decision that the Response Team has made, but their perspective might be especially valuable as a promising vaccine is on the horizon.
If a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, Gill believes that it will not be required for Wittenberg students, but guidance from the CDC and ODH will be considered.
“The COVID response team will probably provide a recommendation to the president and to the board,” she said. “The Ohio Department of Health may make some decisions for us, specifically around residential environments and congregate living settings…if there’s a directive from the state of Ohio or from the federal government, that might trump what the COVID Response Team’s recommendation might be.”
Gill continues to be proud of the sacrifices Wittenberg students have made.
“I would just like to thank the students,” she said. “We’ve been really lucky as a campus to be able to have in-person operations this semester and I think that’s primarily because the students are doing their part to keep everybody safe.”