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How NYU Maintains a Common Operating Picture During COVID-19

Mar 2, 2021

Back to Veoci BlogHow NYU Maintains a Common Operating Picture During COVID-19

For many colleges and universities, Spring Break of 2020 marks the end of “normal” life as we knew it. As we near the year mark of what many consider the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Veoci wanted to share how users have responded to the challenges of the past year using our platform.

William Karnadi MPA, CEM, CBCP, Manager of Emergency Management for New York University’s Department of Public Safety, and his team have been critical in school’s planning and response for summer activities and return to campus for the 2020-2021 school year.  With just under 59,000 enrolled students and over 19,000 employees, planning and responding to the pandemic have been a challenge, but the team has found a way of controlling the situation and maintaining a common operating picture throughout the organization.

This webinar was originally recorded on February 17th, 2021. If you would like to see the recording, click here.

Background

The transition from documents and spreadsheets to a brand new interface needed to be steady. Because of this, when Veoci was introduced to NYU, the evolution and integration of use for the platform was slow, William explained.  

Configuring the software and practicing efficient use of it was essential to help stakeholders feel comfortable. After about a year of creating and finalizing everything from forms to whole processes, COVID-19 hit. 

In planning the return to campus, a few critical questions needed to be answered: 

  • How will NYU get students and staff safely back onto campus?
  • How will NYU track COVID-19 within residence halls?
  • How will NYU manage students who are going home for breaks and then coming back to campus?

The Initial Return to Campus

Challenges

Bringing back the NYU community was a team effort; specifically, a team of representatives from about 20 departments, consisting of around 64 points of contact. The goal was to make the process simple and automated, as team members were performing daily operations alongside COVID-19 operations. 

It was crucial that collected information could be shared easily and made accessible to the appropriate team members. Additionally, a platform with the ability to capture more than 10,000 lines of data in a universal manner, while maintaining the ability to scale up whenever necessary, was a necessity. Luckily, Veoci fit the bill. 

Process

Every student and staff member was assigned a public safety point of contact. When the community member wanted to go back to campus, they were given access to a workflow. Once the workflow was submitted it created a “pending" entry and an email was sent to the public safety point of contact for approval. This was done by simply responding to the email with either the word “approve” or “deny”.

The approval or denial of the community member was then posted into a Veoci room, their profile was made “Active,” and their information was added to the master list of individuals allowed to be on campus. This list then informed who received a health screening form, which tracked signs and symptoms and, when completed, provided access to campus buildings. 

The Master Data list provided other types of actionable data for decision makers such as specific dates individuals were returning to campus, what buildings they would need access to, the school or department they belong to, and more. The information provided maintenance teams a timeline as well as a map of the buildings that needed to be prepped and ready for the arrivals. 

A dashboard was created to make sure that all relative stakeholders had access to this data. This is where anyone involved in the return to campus effort could graph or sort data by return date, buildings to be used, by school and departments, or any other filters. The ability to break down the information in one space proved to be vital in creating a cohesive operation. 

As another effort to help mitigate COVID-19, NYU offered to send community members a COVID-19 testing kit. The data collected within Veoci aided with this process as well. Team members cross-checked the names of community members requesting a testing kit with the status indicated in their profile. If a name or their unique identifier was not matched to an approved individual on the Master list, they did not receive a testing kit. 

Tracking Cases Within Residence Halls

Challenges

The process NYU used during the summer seemed to work well. As the fall semester approached it was time to form a plan that would get students back into their residence halls safely, and continue to track COVID-19 cases. 

The team needed a platform that could continue to provide speed within a complex process while maintaining data integrity and security. Additionally, the platform would also need to scale up alongside the growing demands of a progressing semester. These requirements came from three specific conditions:

  1.  Student’s personal health information was now going to be collected and six specific departments were going to be notified of the cases coming onto campus.
  2. The school must notify Housing, Dining, Public Safety, Logistics, Wellness and Facilities, inform 85 case managers individually of case assignments
  3. Case managers must track the case status of individual students (Isolation; Quarantine; Quarantine-Travel; Quarantine-Precautionary; Isolation Off Campus; Quarantine Off Campus).

Process

The NYU COVID Prevention and Response Team tracked COVID-19 cases in residence halls in their entirety. A case closed via an update signaling the end of a student's student’s quarantine period and negative test.  There were many parts to this plan, and fortunately everything could be done within Veoci, which ensured a common operating picture.

Students started the process by completing a public form (which also secured the data). A team of nurses processed these entries. Upon intake, two key steps took place: Veoci sent an email to the Wellness team reminding them to contact the student and the appropriate next steps; an entry was also created and added to the Master Data set.

The Master Data set is used as a receipt of sorts, as some aspects throughout the duration of the case could be fluid (i.e. quarantining location). This entry allowed for case supervisors to make any necessary changes in regards to dates of isolation or quarantine. Housing, dining, and facilities could also use the data, in a summary capacity, to view updated information in order to safely maintain their services. 

While case information needed to be shared across different departments, the student’s personal information was protected at all times. For instance, if maintenance needed to be performed in a room, a Facilities team member had to request the status of that room within the Veoci system. When the request was initiated, the system checked the Master Data set against the room number entered, and determined if there was an infected individual in that specific room. If there was, a simple message was displayed to inform the team member to proceed with proper protection and additional PPE.

A workflow also triggered a notification process. First, a unique email was sent out to the 85 case managers to make the assignment. Next, a text alert was sent to the housing team to confirm the student had a place to isolate or quarantine. If that location had to change, the team made both living and transportation arrangements so the student could safely isolate. The dining team was also alerted to make sure that the student was added into the meal rotation.

All entry additions to the Master Data set are also eventually removed. When a removal is initiated, Veoci automatically removes the entry from the  Master Data set and updates the Dining and Housing teams’ respective databases. 

Managing Return From Breaks

Challenges

After William and his team managed to get students and staff safely onto campus and into their residence halls, another hurdle was rounding the corner: holiday breaks. 

NYU had to follow the guidelines set out in the New York State Travel Quarantine protocol. The school had to determine where students were coming from, whether they were contiguous or non-contiguous states, and if they had received a COVID-19 pre-test. These pieces of information shaped individual students’ return-to-campus plans. 

Process

Before students were scheduled to arrive back on campus, their profile status in the Master Data set (that was made when they first returned to campus in the fall) was changed to “Inactive”.

Once a student returned to campus, they completed a form that was sent out via a link. In this form, students detailed where they were coming from, whether they had done a pre-test or not, as well as other basic information that would aid in the rest of the case tracking process. Upon submission, the Dining team, Housing team, and case managers received the information.

Veoci took the data in the return form and matched it to the individual profile in the Master Data set. If it was a non-contiguous state, the profile status was changed to “Active.” The student then began the quarantine process. 

A dashboard became a vital component in the Housing team’s preparation for returning students. About 3,000 students planned to return to their dormitories across the span of just a few days. With the fluidity of indicated arrival times, the Housing team could determine when the influx of students would occur and therefore focused their efforts accordingly.

The Housing team also took quarantine status into consideration when preparing residence halls as it severely impacted housing assignments; the team couldn’t put roommates together if one needed to isolate and the other did not. All of this data allowed for move-in days to go smoothly, and for students to get settled into yet another unusual semester.  

Looking Forward 

As COVID-19 continues to pose challenges, William and the rest of his team at NYU can move forward knowing that they are equipped with a platform that will continue to help keep their community members safe, and always provide a common operating picture.

Memorial Student Center Texas A&M University via Wikimedia Commons

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