How CSU prepared campus for the return to classes

How CSU prepared campus for the return to classes Image
How CSU prepared campus for the return to classes September 1, 2020

CSU's Pandemic Response team has developed a “protection program that is scientifically based [and] factually grounded,” providing a “blanket of protection.”

Vice Admiral Forrest Faison III had only been on campus two days in his role as senior vice president for research and innovation and chief health strategy officer at CSU when President Harlan Sands appointed him to lead the University’s Pandemic Response Team.

“I hadn’t even gotten my parking pass yet,” he laughed.

But by the time he’d officially started back in March, the coronavirus had unexpectedly become a catastrophic global pandemic and the University had to make quick decisions to shift to remote learning.

In his role as the lead of the response team, Faison oversees the work of over 20 University experts and senior officials that made the transition while preparing the campus for the fall semester. In addition, he leads a group of University and college officials statewide in coordinating their efforts to ensure a uniformity in the state response to the pandemic.

Faison comes to Cleveland State after having wrapped a 39-year career in the United States Navy that culminated with him as surgeon general, overseeing the global medical operations of the military branch.

So, in his words, this isn’t his first rodeo.

“This is about my fifth or sixth pandemic response,” he said.

Having overseen the Navy’s response to the Ebola, Zika, SARS, flu and Middle Eastern virus crises, Faison brought that wealth of experience in guiding Cleveland State’s team.

“My beliefs were that the most important thing we do is that we protect people, their health, their safety, and then, to the extent that we possibly can, keep the academic mission going,” he said.

The result of that work for the University is what Faison calls a “protection program that is scientifically based [and] factually grounded,” providing a “blanket of protection.”

The covering includes seven different, interrelated initiatives to ensure the wellbeing of students faculty and staff.

  1. Everyone making plans to come to campus must first complete a health questionnaire that determines whether they might be exhibiting symptoms of COVID 19. If they are, they are alerted to stay home and University representatives follow up with appropriate next steps.
  2. Masks are required on campus. Hundreds of handwashing and sanitizing stations are in place and furniture in communal areas has been spaced out to ensure proper social distancing.
  3. The University has doubled it housekeeping staff targeting high tough, high volume areas and assembled a rapid response team in case of a need for emergency sanitation.
  4. Signage throughout campus encourages proper distancing.
  5. Cleveland Clinic provides a number of daily rapid response tests for University students, who are suspected of having contracted the virus and provides results the next day.
  6. A team of newly hired contact tracers is in place for any positive case on campus to document
  7. And the top two floors of Fenn Tower have been designated as a quarantine zone with the University offering full support, supplies, food to any student required to isolate.

And so far, so good.

“I’m pretty proud of our students and the campus community for the work they’ve done,” Faison said.

“People are taking this seriously.”

He and his team monitors campus daily, evaluating a dashboard of information, from measuring the rate of COVID-19 positivity to determining how the campus community is adhering to the protocols in place.

Given the unpredictable nature of the virus, Faison admits he approaches this work with pragmatically cautious, but hopeful optimism. 

“I tell my team that whether we realize it or not, a trust has been placed in our hands.” he said.

“And that trust is the belief of every student, faculty, staff and everyone’s families that we will do all we can to protect them. So, we honor that trust every day.”