Georgia State’s COVID-19 task force is working to keep students safe

News POTY 2020. Photo courtesy of Dean Rodney

Throughout February, Georgia State University President Mark Becker created the Public Health Preparedness Task Force for him and his administration to be advised about the COVID-19 epidemic. 

The head of the task force interim Dean Leslie Wolf said that Becker wanted continuous updates on the virus, specifically the ways it could affect students.

“The university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been guided by the university’s commitment to the health and well-being of its students, faculty and staff as its highest priority,” Wolf said. 

Becker decided to include important members from different departments of Georgia State in the task force. 

COVID-19 virus was unexpected and evolved rapidly yet Georgia State took immediate action by creating this taskforce. 

The Public Health Preparedness task force is serving an important role in how Georgia State responds to world pandemics that affect the university. 

Leslie Wolf, Chair, Interim Dean of the College of Law

News POTY 2020. Photo courtesy of Leslie Wolf

Leslie Wolf chairs the committee and serves as the liaison to the president and provost in terms of leading the university’s response to the pandemic.

“I have a background in law, public health and ethics and have previously written on issues relating to public health emergencies and served on the CDC’s Ethics Subcommittee to the Advisory Committee to the Director, which similarly addressed public health emergencies in some of its work,” Wolf said.

Michael Sanseviro, Associate Vice President for Student Engagement and Dean of Students

News POTY 2020. Photo courtesy of Michael S

Michael Sanseviro’s role in the task force is to “focus on how we best serve student needs outside the classroom.”

His work with the task force primarily began with reviewing emergency procedures and protocols to make sure there were solid plans in place for any variety of scenarios that may occur. 

“Most of my focus was working with my colleagues across the division of Student Success to ensure we had continuity of operation plans for all of our key services, such as counseling, health services, housing, emergency response and student assistance for financial hardships and emergency assistance, including support for students experiencing housing and food insecurities,” Sanseviro said. 

He quickly partnered with these organizations to ensure students didn’t lose access to these places.

Sanseviro also helped in making services that students usually would have to come in person to use, like counseling, available remotely.  

Wolfgang Schlör, Associate Provost for International Initiatives

News POTY 2020. Photo courtesy of GSU

Wolfgang Schlör’s role in the Task Force is to focus on the impact of the crisis on students, faculty and staff abroad, or planning to go abroad.

“We initiated and supported the return of [Georgia State] students to the U.S., initially from South Korea and Japan, and later from all other overseas destinations,” Schlör said. “We also coordinated the cancellation of upcoming [Georgia State] study abroad programs during Spring Break, and later for Maymester and summer,” he said.

These actions were taken by the task force all in accordance with the University System of Georgia’s guidelines.

Madison Burnett, Associate General Counsel

News POTY 2020. Photo courtesy of GSU

Madison Burnett’s role for the task force was to monitor any questions and legal issues made towards the task force.

“The task force advised the president and the provost in planning for the many complicated issues of this situation,” Burnett said. “Each person on the task force contributed based on their area of expertise.”

Don Hale, Vice President for Public Relations and Marketing Communications

News POTY 2020. Photo courtesy of GSU

Don Hale’s role in the task force is to manage the situation from a public relations perspective and advise on communication strategy. 

“Public Relations and Marketing Communications manages communications for the university, and communications have never been more important than during this coronavirus pandemic,” Hale said.

Georgia State knows that this is a rapidly evolving situation and is closely monitoring and staying alert for new information and recommendations from the CDC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of State. 

Wolf felt that the entire task force has collectively played a huge part in covering the COVID-19 pandemic on campus. 

“The university response to the COVID-19 pandemic has required a coordinated effort from everyone across campus,” Wolf said. “While the task force has had a role to play, it is only one part of the collective effort that has been taking place at the university.” 

The Public Health Preparedness Task Force is referring all students to its website for frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and preventive measures for students, staff and faculty well-being. 

The remaining two members of the task force include Georgia State University Police Department Chief of Police Joe Spillane and Rodney Lyn, interim dean of the School of Public Health. The Signal reached out to the members asking for their roles in the task force, but they did not respond to a request for comment.