College officials mobilize to promote health and safety in wake of COVID-19 cases
Health and safety are a top priority at Southwest Tennessee Community College says Police Services and Public Safety Director L. Angela Webb. Now, more than ever. “COVID-19 has changed our lives and safety operations at Southwest,” Webb said. “It is more important now than it has ever been for everyone to behave as unofficial safety officers and join us in providing the safest environment possible for teaching, learning and working.”
Webb says self-reporting a positive test result may be the newest way to help protect your fellow students and employees, but it is one of the most important as we navigate the pandemic. “We are diligent in protecting Southwest students, employees and visitors, but we cannot do it alone. Submitting a self-report online that includes your most current contact information when you have received a positive COVID-19 test result is critical in our efforts to mitigate the spread of disease,” Webb said.
Southwest has enacted stringent safety protocols to protect everyone who visits a Southwest location—from health assessments, body temperature scanning and retrofitting classrooms and labs to promote social distancing to rigorous sanitation protocols to combat the virus. However, Webb says the self-report is a process that becomes supremely important when someone tests positive for the coronavirus. “Filling out the self-report online when you test positive for COVID-19 is quick and easy and is only the beginning of an intricate process to ensure those who have possibly been exposed are notified and impacted areas on campus are sanitized immediately,” she said.
Once the College receives a self-report that involves a student or an employee who studies or works on campus, Police Services investigates. “We immediately begin the contact tracing process by reaching out to the individual who submitted the report to identify others who were exposed to the individual and whether they are at risk of infection,” Webb said. “Those who have been exposed to the individual who tested positive and did not wear a mask or follow social distancing and other recommended safety protocols at the time are then contacted by the College’s social services coordinator and advised of the risk of infection and next steps.”
Potentially exposed individuals are notified via email, as well. The College then provides the information to the Shelby County Health Department of all those at risk of COVID-19 infection due to exposure to the individual who self-reported while not following safety protocols.
Physical Plant Director Jonathan Welden says the College also identifies the areas the individual visited and closes them for up to 48 hours for sanitation. “We use Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to clean all areas of the College and take special care when sanitizing areas identified for possible COVID-19 exposure,” said Welden. According to Welden, the Shelby County Health Department visits the College each time there is a new case in a newly affected area and has recommended the College not shut down entire buildings, but rather focus on the areas where the individual taught, studied or visited and cordon them off for sanitation.
Webb says the investigation and response are intricate processes that also involve Academic Affairs, External Relations, Human Resources and Student Affairs. “The investigation and response can take from several hours to days, especially if we do not receive correct contact information on the initial self-report. But, we all work as quickly as we can to protect the College and truly appreciate everyone who helps us fight this virus by self-reporting a positive test result,” she said.
For more information about Southwest’s infectious disease policy and the College’s pandemic response, visit the Back to Campus Plan online and stay tuned for updates on the coronavirus website at https://www.southwest.tn.edu/coronavirus/.
Self-report a COVID-19 positive test result at https://www.southwest.tn.edu/self-reporting.htm.