Many decisions focused around the safety and health of the university during the COVID-19 pandemic have been made by recommendations presented to the President by a group of faculty and staff that make up the Incident Command Team.
The team consists of representatives from VUPD, residential life, human resources, parking and transportation, dining, the health center, IMC, facilities, faculty and the president’s office.
While the team was in charge of research and recommendations, the final decision was ultimately left to the President.
“I am so proud of our campus administrators. Last Spring, in my opinion, [they] 100% protected us and didn't bring us back after spring break,” Chair of the Incident Command Team Chuck Garber said.
The Incident Command Team was created prior to the pandemic and was tasked with the job of preparing for disastrous events.
“We look at stuff like effects from tornadoes, evacuations, active threats such as active shooters, what if there is a hazmat spill on US 30?” Chair of the Incident Command Team Chuck Garber said. “[We look at] Pandemics, you know, we’ve prepared for stuff like measles...but COVID is a whole different animal.”
Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit Valpo, the team had met from the start of march to fathers day seven days a week. They have met weekly throughout the school year.
“So what we have to do is really research everything about COVID-19. So all of us took up different roles reading up on different things and what we really focused on is all kinds of medical journals,” Garber said.
According to Garber, the team focused on recommendations made by the Porter County Health Department, Indiana State Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
One of the first tasks the team completed was figuring out how Valpo could integrate social distancing into its daily operations.
“Our engineer on the team, who’s in charge of facility management, he put together a formula that we shared with [other] big schools in Indiana,” Garber said. “[The formula] decided what was safe [distances] to keep people safe on campus.”
Despite the research, the new and constant developments of the pandemic caused challenges for the team.
“We would work ourselves silly on all this research and get it written, put it in writing...and you know what would happen is the CDC or somebody would phase the whole thing because new research that they were doing [came out],” Garber said.
According to Garber, the team had made their recommendations not only based on the research conducted but also from the feedback of the campus community.
“Throughout the whole process, we listened to people,” Garber said. “We tried to put [out] what people really needed.”
Despite the pandemic bringing many challenges to the team, Garber saw the positive effects it had on the Incident Command Team.
“I personally am so proud of this team, how we came together and just dealt with everything,” Garber said.