TSU President Glenda Glover, center, speaks to participants in COVID-19 workshop on the university’s main campus.

By Emmanuel Freeman

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) — With Tennessee State University planning to reopen this fall, state health and emergency management officials say the university is moving in the right direction to ensure a safe environment for its reopening plan.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission joined TSU President Glenda Glover and other University officials in a COVID-19 tabletop exercise, or workshop, on the main campus.

“Today’s tabletop was very critical in our reopening plan, in that it covered areas that we need to know about, and emphasized things that we had missing in our plan,” Glover said. “It was very strategically timed today because we have to communicate something to students this week. So, this was very good, very complete and very comprehensive.”

The tabletop was coordinated by the three agencies that praised the positive level of cooperation between TSU’s administration and staff in trying to come up with a comprehensive plan for the campus, including safety protocols, testing and tracking.

“What we saw here with TSU is that you have an administration that’s being collaborative and finding ways to mitigate the threat of COVID-19,” said Jeff Brown, a planner with TEMA and key facilitator of the tabletop.

“They want to open campus up and I think they are taking the right precautions through communicating with each other and coming up with contingency plans on how to deal with any potential problems down the road.

The goal of the tabletop was to identify areas in the group’s emergency response plan that needed improvement in addressing coronavirus outbreak scenarios.

Members of the university’s Pandemic and Fall Course Delivery Task Forces, representatives from student affairs, emergency management, legal affairs, police, academic affairs and others attended the workshop. Scenarios included real-life on “what-if” situations, such as positive tests in dormitories, cluster outbreaks, how to respond to COVID-19 within athletics, situations, and how to handle mass gatherings.

 Dr. Curtis Johnson, chief of staff and head of the TSU Pandemic and Fall Course Delivery Task Forces, said the tabletop exercise helped to make individuals in key areas evaluate their policies and processes.

“Today’s process put individuals who are decision-makers involved in managing those decisions in one room to talk about the what-ifs, such as ‘when this occurs,’ ‘should this occur,’” Johnson said.

“It also helped in ensuring that our policies and processes are in line with the state and federal government, the CDC, and that the university is protecting everyone as best as possible.”

The exercise also assessed the validity of TSU’s current emergency response plans; challenges posed by COVID-19; how the university coordinates responses with the campus health services; and reviewed plans to clarify lines of accountability and communication to enable timely, well-coordinated, and effective response.  This is extremely crucial as TSU continues its plans for reopening. The University has said it will move forward, but understands that those plans could change as cases increase.