We had a good system, but my mind keeps returning to the great people here who were willing to make this work.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the country in March 2020, including in-person teaching at BSU, Dr. Christopher Frazer had just finished a professional development exercise involving contagious outbreaks.
However, even that couldn’t have prepared him for what was on the horizon.
“Like most people, I thought the virus sounded concerning, but frankly it didn’t sound as concerning as a measles outbreak on campus,” said the executive director of BSU’s Wellness Center.
It soon became apparent that COVID was something altogether different. Very quickly, Dr. Frazer and his staff, along with a group of volunteers that grew in number as the pandemic stretched from months into more than a year, ramped up what became a successful response to the health crisis.
“At first, we thought, how are we going to do this?” he said. Not only did the Wellness Center staff and BSU administrators have to find a way to keep students, employees, librarians and faculty safe, study tours were also in progress, and those students had to be safely brought home. While the campus transitioned almost immediately to remote learning, Dr. Frazer and his staff put together a plan.
The plan included training for his staff, an intense program of testing and contact-tracing, educating members of the BSU community about hygiene and the importance of wearing a face mask, recruiting and training volunteers, and, ultimately, the opening of a regional vaccination center on campus. Weekly meetings with the president and the cabinet were also instituted for the purposes of planning and to facilitate communication.
For Dr. Frazer and his staff of 11, along with volunteers from across campus, there were many long days. For instance, if in the early morning hours test results arrived showing that someone tested positive for the virus,
Dr. Frazer and his team had just a few hours to notify everyone who’d been in contact with that individual and get them to quarantine.
“It became kind of an around-the-clock operation,” he said. Dr. Frazer figured that Kelsey Gauthier, assistant director of events management, made up to 1,500 calls last year in an effort to notify students about test results and, at times, the need to quarantine.
The six-day work weeks and 12-plus-hour work days paid off. In the end, the campus experienced a positive test rate of less than 1 percent. Only one student ended up hospitalized, and that may have been for
a non-COVID reason.
“By and large, our students recovered very well and were able to convalesce in a manner that didn’t perpetuate the spread of the illness,” Dr. Frazer said. “We had a good system, but my mind keeps returning to the great people here who were willing to make this work.”
Those volunteers who went above and beyond, he added, were:
Testing: Greg DeMelo, G’11; Kathie Manning; Nick Burns, ’15; Kyle Bueno, ’18; Cathleen DeSimone; Eva Gaffney, G’01; and Jeanne O’Brien.
Tracing: Kelsey Gauthier, Jacklyn Walsh, Denise Diliddo and Shirelle Gurley.
Wellness: Cindy Calderon, Beth Archambault, Sara LaPlume and Lynn Grabau.