Tuskegee University Cross Campus Partnerships to increase COVID-19 Testing and Awareness in Alabama Black Belt Counties
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Acting President, Dr. Ruby Perry, established a Task Force of which there was a named Community Engagement subcommittee. As a member, Dr. Raymon Shange, Associate Extension Administrator, worked with Dr. Deloris Alexander (subcommittee chair) and faculty and staff from multiple colleges at Tuskegee University with support from the University’s Community Health Task Force co-chairs — Dr. Kimberly Scott, vice president for student affairs, and Crystal James, Esq., head of the Department of Graduate Public Health. Primary outcomes of this subcommittee’s actions were to provide PPE for offices and agencies in the Alabama Black Belt, make viral transport media for COVID-19 testing in the community, promote an informational campaign on the newly established TUCE 2FAS Podcast, as well as generating traditional Extension factsheets.
Tuskegee University joined with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) to increase COVID-19 testing in Alabama Black Belt Counties. At the start of the initiative, the State of Alabama had only tested nearly 200,000 out of the almost 5 million residents for the novel coronavirus since the pandemic began. Testing had even been smaller for rural and Black Belt Counties. The effort by the Community Engagement Subcommittee has been impactful on the local community as over 3600 tubes of media were made to support covid19 kits for testing of which 3000 were used by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and 640 at Tuskegee University. Additionally Research faculty joined with Extension and Outreach staff to stockpile over 3000 person units of PPE and distributed 100% of that to Black Belt departments, agencies, and operations.
Faculty and administrators representing the university’s College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Science; College of Arts and Sciences; College of Engineering; School of Nursing and Allied Health; and College of Veterinary Medicine helped secure the needed supplies and reagents. Additionally, faculty, staff, and students then began making the media in the labs across campus.
In line with the traditions of extending campus expertise and capacity to the community, TUCE and the Carver Integrative Sustainability Center established the Future Farmers and Agricultural Specialists (2FAS) Podcast in January 2020. When the need for information was recognized in the communities served by TUCE, the organizations quickly pivoted to begin releasing information via podcasts to the community. The CISC team constructed two series to be released with respect to the crisis: 1) The Science and Community Health of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and 2) A Time for Healing: Resilience in the time of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The first series has been released and was circulated through a network of churches schools and professional networks to much acclaim. This series featured Public Health, Cardiovascular, Virology, and Microbiological Experts from Tuskegee University with local connections, as well as city officials. The second series is currently being recorded and features other experts in the spiritual, mental health, and youth development communities throughout the 1890s.
The university’s response is in part to provide resources to communities the Black Belt of Alabama that suffer from systemic health disparities and a lack of adequate medical funding and emergency medical facilities.
More information about the university’s continuing response to the coronavirus pandemic is available at www.tuskegee.edu/coronavirus.