During meetings with university and local officials, Dr. Deborah Birx supports ongoing campus efforts
Following a tour of the University of Mississippi campus and meetings with university, state and local officials and students on Saturday, Dr. Deborah Birx – the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force – supported ongoing efforts on campus and in Oxford to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
As part of a series of visits to select universities across the country, Dr. Birx toured the UM campus to learn more about the university’s COVID-19 protocols and procedures.
“It’s clear that this university has put the health of the students first and the health of the community first, and I just wanted to thank the administration and their leadership for their work here on campus,” Dr. Birx said during a press conference Saturday.
“It’s been really a privilege to work with the chancellor (Glenn Boyce) and all the leadership here at the university for the entire administration and faculty to really hear a dialogue and have a discussion and hear from the students and Greek houses of what they are doing together to decrease the spread of COVID on the university.”
Dr. Birx spent the day touring several locations and facilities on campus, as well as meeting with university, state and local leaders to understand UM’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus and safeguard the campus and surrounding community. She applauded the planning efforts the university has undertaken to put protocols and procedures in place to stop the spread of the virus on campus and the students’ active engagement in stopping the spread of the virus on campus.
Chancellor Glenn Boyce thanked Dr. Birx for taking the time to visit the university and Oxford.
“As the White House coronavirus adviser, she shared tremendous insights into what’s working across the country,” Boyce said. “She is a trusted national leader in the fight against this pandemic, and we’re grateful for her leadership and interest in our prevention efforts.”
During Saturday’s visit, Dr. Birx and UM leaders discussed a number of proactive steps taken across the university, including:
- Leadership from the University of Mississippi Medical Center since the emergence of the virus in the state in March;
- The university’s contact tracing team staffed with faculty and staff experts;
- The university’s surveillance testing program put in place this month to test asymptomatic cases on campus;
- The university’s COVID-19 dashboard built to keep the campus community apprised of key metrics; and
- Ole Miss athletics’ efforts to implement and manage protocols and procedures to allow student-athletes to return to competition.
“Our campus is open, and courses are being taught because of the commitment of hundreds of Ole Miss faculty, staff and students who have worked tirelessly on our prevention efforts,” Boyce said. “We will continue to focus on doing all that we can to keep our campus open for the sake of our students, and for the Lafayette-Oxford-University community that needs our campus to be open.
“Our No. 1 job is to safeguard the health and well-being of our campus community, and to do so in ways that enable our students to maintain progress toward earning their degrees. That is our promise in service to our students, our state and our nation.”
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 while returning to in-person operations for the fall semester, the university released its official “Campus Ready” plan in June outlining new protocols and expectations for everyone on campus, a modified academic calendar, forms of in-person and remote course delivery, mandatory training for employees and students, daily symptom checks, and COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
Noel Wilkin, UM provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, said he appreciates the time and information Dr. Birx shared during her visit
“We are encouraged by her support of our plans and protocols,” said Wilkin, who is chair of the university’s COVID-19 Future Planning Task Force. “This is validation of the hard work of so many people to help ensure that we’re doing everything we can to keep our mission on track.
“We will begin exploring her recommendations for continuous improvement and implement those as early as possible.”
The “Campus Ready” plan was developed in alignment with government orders and public health recommendations from the Safe Return order of Gov. Tate Reeves’s reopening plan, the city of Oxford’s Serving Oxford Safely recovery plan, the IHL Safe Start Task Force, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Mississippi State Department of Health, and the American College Health Association.