Tag Archives: COVID-19

TSU expert says slow decline in Tennessee’s COVID cases not enough: ‘We need to do better’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A recent report shows that Tennessee is ranked 7th in the nation with the number of COVID-19 cases, which is a drop from number 1 and a 21 percent decrease compared to a week ago. According to the weekly State Profile Report for Tennessee released Tuesday, the state also fell to 18th in COVID deaths, dropping from 11th the previous week. 

Dr. Wendelyn Inman

While this decline shows improvement, a Tennessee State University public health expert says, “We need to do better.” 

“Twenty-one percent is excellent. That means our cases have fallen, but we still have a high transmittable number,” says Dr. Wendelyn Inman, an infectious disease expert and professor and director of the public health program in the College of Health Sciences. “It still puts us in the top 10. That 21 percent is not enough to garner, ‘I don’t have anything to worry about.’ It says that we’ve done better, and we hope it continues.” 

Inman, previously the chief of epidemiology for the State of Tennessee, says she hopes the numbers keep declining.

“Instead of being 7th, we need to come out of the top 10,” she says. “That’s my hope. We are the volunteer state. We should be number 1 in the fewest cases.”

On what the state can do to continue the downward spiral, Inman cited efforts at Tennessee State University. She says although TSU falls in a zip code with 37 percent vaccination rate, the university is more active in encouraging solution, which is prevention.  

“TSU is encouraging our people to be healthier during this pandemic; that’s something we can be proud of. We are being positive with our population, encouraging them to get immunized. For the state, we are not doing enough. Twenty-one percent is great, but wouldn’t 70 percent be better?”  

In June, TSU, in collaboration with the Nashville Metro Public Health Department, started offering vaccines to residents 12 years old and up. The university’s student health center also stays open for COVID testing. 

Frank Stevenson, associate vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students, says TSU has remained very active in executing a plan to mitigate issues around COVID. He says that more than 50 percent of students living on campus have been vaccinated, and more than 3,000 of all students have been tested. The university tests an average of more than 100 students a day. 

“We are doing very well in our effort to keep the campus safe,” says Stevenson. “I think we kind of created a wall or barrier that is making it tough for the virus to spread on campus as aggressively as we’ve seen it spread in other places.” 

 Vaccines are administered Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in Kean Hall on the main campus. Daily testing is also set up in Kean Hall.  

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and eight doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU public health expert discusses seriousness of COVID-19 Delta variant

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – With evidence mounting about the dangers of the COVID-19 Delta variant, a TSU public health expert is urging the public to take the warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seriously and get vaccinated. 

Dr. Wendelyn Inman

“This is no time for hesitancy,” said Dr. Wendelyn Inman, an infectious disease expert and professor and director of the public health program in the College of Health Sciences. ”The vaccines work. This Delta variant is nothing to brush off; it is very serious.” 

Reminding the public about the need to take necessary precaution, including wearing masks, and how the CDC arrives at its conclusions, Inman said the agency looks at “all of the data – the bigger picture.” 

“They look at anecdotal information, they look at statistics, they look at the obvious and they look at the things that really are in the background that we really don’t see,” said Inman, who was previously the chief of epidemiology for the State of Tennessee. 

“So, it will take them days to explain things to us. But what they have digested in offering solutions for us as the prime directive is to save lives. A lot of times we don’t understand that and a lot of times we don’t agree with it. But if they have chosen to make a recommendation to wear mask again, even in-doors, even if you have been immunized that means our situation is taking another level of seriousness.” 

In its recent recommendation urging people in COVID-19 hotspots like Tennessee to resume mask-wearing in indoor public spaces, the agency laid out what is known about the delta variant, which now accounts for most of the COVID-19 cases in the United States. 

Dr. Felicia Tinuoye

“The Delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us and be an opportunist,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “In rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others. This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations.” 

In Tennessee, the state’s Department of Health rates 85 of the state’s 95 counties with “high” or “substantial” transmission ratings. The remaining 10 have “moderate” ratings. Davidson County, which includes Nashville, is rated “substantial.” 

Inman described the COVID-19 microbe as “an enemy that takes advantage of us touching, breathing, and seeing each other.” 

“So, why we may not understand how microbes are transmitted, you need to know that the variant is more transmissible than its last existence. It has mutated. This happens in the microbial world every day. That’s why we have the Delta variant,” Inman said.

Dr. Tatiana Zabaleta

In June, TSU, in collaboration with the Nashville Metro Public Health Department, started offering vaccines to residents 12 years old and up at the university’s Avon Williams Campus. The next vaccine event will be on Aug. 30 in Kean Hall on the main campus, from 9 a.m. – noon. To register, visit www.signupgenius.com/go/tsu

Dr. Felicia Tinuoye and Dr. Tatiana Zabaleta, international public health professionals, are part of the MPH, or Master’s in Public Health program at TSU. They said in addition to their medical disciplines, they have learned so much in the TSU program to help them better understand the seriousness of the need to get protection against COVID-19 and the Delta variant. 

“The program gives students exposure on how to be proactive,” said Tinuoye, of Nigeria, who completed her MPH degree in April. “TSU is doing what it is supposed to be doing. We need to ensure that the public gets the right message to help people make up their minds about available preventive measures.” 

Zabaleta, from Colombia, who graduates in December, agrees. 

“This program has given me the opportunity to learn more about global health and how to help solve the problem of health disparity in my own country,” she said. “TSU’s MPH program empowers students to really get involved in helping people, especially during this pandemic.” 

To learn more about the university’s COVID-19 protocols, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/covid19/ 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and eight doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU offering residents 12 years and up a chance to receive COVID-19 vaccination

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University, in collaboration with the Metro Public Health Department, is offering residents 12 years old and up an opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

The shots will be offered at TSU’s Avon Williams Campus near downtown from 9 a.m. to 12 noon CDT on June 15, with a second dose to be given on July 6. To register, visit www.signupgenious.com/go/TSU.

Dr. Wendolyn Inman is an infectious disease expert and professor and director of public health programs in the College of Health Sciences at TSU. She encourages people to take advantage of the opportunity to get a vaccination, particularly African Americans.

“African Americans have the lowest vaccination rate, therefore they have the greatest chance of getting COVID-19,” says Inman.

She adds that COVID-19 infections are highest in the age group 18 to 34, and that those individuals risk infecting others over age 65.

“So, if you are African American, not immunized, and between the ages of 18-34 years, you are more likely to transmit the disease to an African American over the age of 65 years,” says Inman.  “Would you want to be the transmission for a loved one who dies? Get immunized!”

Junior Mark Davis, a mass communications major and Mister TSU, says he doesn’t want to put anyone’s life at risk which is why he has gotten vaccinated. He is urging his peers who haven’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccine to do so.

“I have a two-year-old nephew and a grandmother,” says Davis, who is from Cincinnati, Ohio. “If I go around my grandmother, who is a breast cancer survivor, she may not survive COVID. You never know what other peoples’ health issues are.”

TSU will be fully operational in the fall, with continued safety measures.  Officials say the decision to resume in-person classes is in line with the reduction in COVID-19 restrictions by the City of Nashville, recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state health experts.    

“We are excited about returning to a robust in-person collegiate experience,” said Frank Stevenson, associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students. “But we know that students should be vaccinated for that to be fully appreciated. That’s why we’re creating easy access for all of our students to get vaccinated.”   

To learn more about the university’s fall return plan, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/return/

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and eight doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Home or away: Amid pandemic, many TSU students still see campus life as a better choice

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – As a new semester begins, returning students at Tennessee State University say they are glad to be back, despite challenges they faced last semester trying to live on campus amid the pandemic. 

Jeia Moore

Residence halls opened Jan. 21 for new and returning students. Classes are offered in hybrid, online and in face-to-face formats, including distance learning. Students have the choice of staying home and taking classes online at a discounted tuition rate, but many have instead selected to live on campus, stay in their door rooms, and complete their courses online without the discount. 

One of them is junior information systems major Jeia Moore of Memphis, Tennessee, who sees campus life as the essence of going to college and won’t trade it for anything. Besides, Moore says, TSU is providing an “atmosphere that makes us very safe.” 

“It’s a little bit different, because you know, we have to wear a mask, social distance and everything,” says Moore. “We are limited in some ways in how we move around, so it’s a little bit different, but I understand that they’re doing it to keep us safe, and I rather be here than at home.” 

Danielle Glenn

Moore is not alone. In interviews to gauge returning students’ experience about living on campus during the pandemic, and why many chose campus life over home, many say it’s “a missed opportunity” not to experience what a college campus offers. For the spring semester, about 1,600 students, including returning and new students are living on campus, that’s about 50 percent of full occupancy. 

“I just feel like you only get four years of college and you better make the best use of that experience, even during the pandemic,” says Danielle Glenn, a junior criminal justice major from Atlanta. “I feel like campus is safe. The university is taking all precautions that need to be taken to make sure everyone is safe. Temperature checks, quarantines, having a place for students to go if they test positive. All of my classes are online. So even when I go on campus to get food or go to the post office, everyone is wearing a mask and there are stickers to keep everyone distant.” 

A TSU expert on social behavior says that students’ preference to stay on campus even during a pandemic “could be due to many factors.” 

“Their identity as a student is tied to being on campus. Their reference groups – other students and faculty – are on campus and close contact with them is important for their success,” says Dr. Oscar Miller, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology. “Being a college student is being a member of a select group of people who have achieved an important rite of passage. To a large measure what that means to a student is engaging the campus experience as an independent adult. For some, assuming the role of a student may require getting away from their home environment.” 

Damien Antwine

TSU officials say students’ optimism about campus life that makes them want to come back even during the pandemic is rooted in the campus preparation they saw and experienced last semester. For instance, the university is continuing a comprehensive plan put in place last semester, which includes a 14-day “safer in place” policy for all residence halls. The policy requires students to stay in their places of residence unless they need to perform essential activities, such as getting food, or going to medical appointments. Last semester, of all Tennessee colleges, TSU reported one of the lowest COVID-19 cases, with mostly mild to no symptoms and no hospitalization. 

Dr. Curtis Johnson, associate vice president and chief of staff, leads the university’s COVID taskforce. He says students want to come back because the university has “gone to great lengths” to be as accommodating as possible. 

“Creating a campus environment that is welcoming to the students and that provides opportunities for them to interact in the safest way possible are what we strive for every day,” says Johnson. 

Frank Stevenson, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, says “the university is very intentional” about creating a home environment for the students that makes them want to come back. 

“For many students, TSU becomes their home. When they go home, they are visitors,” says Stevenson. “They know that we’re going to be there to support them. This is their village, so knowing that they have that TSU village of RAs, hall directors and others surrounding them, they know they are home.” 

Damien Antwine, one of the returning students interviewed, agrees. He says coming from a neighborhood with drugs and other distractions, he “definitely” didn’t want to stay home.

“It definitely helped a lot that campus was open, where I could be with people who are there to help me succeed,” says Antwine, a junior agricultural science major from Memphis, who also has a job in Nashville. “Teachers were accommodating. It was a great experience.” 

Terrance Izzard, TSU associate vice president for admissions and recruitment, says that the university’s goal is to let returning and new students know that their safety and wellbeing remain a major priority. 

“Our ultimate goal is that we get through this together and that students understand their social responsibility, as well as the university’s commitment to safety,” says Izzard.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and eight doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU, Meharry virtual health summit to feature top health experts Drs. Anthony Fauci and James Hildreth

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is co-sponsoring a Virtual Health Summit with Meharry Medical College on the COVID-19 vaccine and health equity. The summit will feature Meharry President and CEO Dr. James Hildreth, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to President Biden.

The summit is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 17, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Central Time. It can be accessed at:  https://youtu.be/VThTmBxTRPM.

The summit is a continuation of TSU’s collaboration with Meharry. The two historically-black institutions recently announced a new partnership focused on establishing a pipeline of African-American doctors and dentists who will provide essential care to underserved communities. The initiative is named after one of TSU’s most distinguished graduates, Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., an internationally renowned cardiac surgeon who holds an honorary degree from Meharry. 

“We are excited to co-sponsor this summit with Meharry,” said Barbara Murrell, chair of the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Institute at TSU. “It’s important for people in our community to be exposed to leading health experts who will be discussing topics that impact their lives.”

Dissemination of the vaccine in minority communities is one of the main topics Fauci and Hildreth are expected to discuss. There will also be a panel discussion on health equity.

“This virtual convening creates effective collaboration among thought leaders and medical and oral health experts to re-imagine and advance health equity toward the goal of developing a roadmap toward accessible and affordable healthcare,” according to organizers.

Dr. Wendolyn Inman is an infectious disease expert and professor and director of public health programs in the College of Health Sciences at TSU. She said events like the summit are important because they keep the public informed, especially when there’s apprehension in the black community about taking the vaccine, and its lack of dissemination into communities of color.

Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr.

“When we are not informed, unfounded fears govern our responses to productive solutions like vaccine immunizations and appropriate health care access,” said Inman.

“The “fireside chat” with Dr. Hildreth and Dr. Fauci is another way that communities of color can effectively collaborate to ensure all communities are served appropriately during this pandemic.”

Dr. Ronald Barredo, dean of the College of Health Sciences, said the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for events like the summit that focus on better healthcare in general.

“Access has always been limited when it comes to minorities,” said Barredo. “Hopefully the discussion will help lead to more equitable delivery of health care, more equitable access to health care.”

To learn more about TSU’s College of Health Sciences, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/health_sciences/clinics.aspx.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and eight doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

COVID-19 podcast features TSU infectious disease control expert in hour-long national Q&A session

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – With new COVID-19 variants spreading across the country, a Tennessee State University infectious disease control expert is urging all Americans to take advantage of available vaccines and get immunized, as the surest way to protect against the coronavirus.  

Dr. Wendolyn Inman

Data so far suggests current vaccines should protect against the emergence of three main variants from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa, and the pathogen circulating in the United States. 

Dr. Wendolyn Inman, professor and director of public health programs in the College of Health Sciences, was the featured speaker on a podcast organized Monday by the TSU Department of Graduate and Professional Development to address COVID-19 concerns. More than 100 people from across the country tuned in to the podcast themed, “Pacing for the Pandemic, A Question and Answer Session on Preparing for the Next Phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Listeners raised questions from “Who should take the vaccine?” “Is the vaccine safe?” to “When will there be normalcy?” 

Inman, who was previously chief of epidemiology for the State of Tennessee, said she thinks everyone should be required to take the vaccines because they are “effective and potent.” 

“If it shows that it is not killing folks, and if it shows that it is helping people, I think everyone should be required to take it, unless they have a religious or a health exemption,” said Inman. She debunked the idea that the vaccine is a killer. 

Jeia More

“I can guarantee you that some of the most elite people on the planet have had that shot, and they won’t take it if it were a killer,” she said, adding that if Americans continue to observe COVID-19 safety protocols, and get immunized, “life could have some normalcy by August.” 

Currently in circulation are the Pfizer and Moderna two-step vaccines. On Friday, Johnson & Johnson announced that its single-dose coronavirus vaccine is 72 percent effective against the pathogen in the U.S. and will ask federal regulators for approval this month. 

“I suspect that with these new things – like the Johnson & Johnson announcement – we have the potential of having more normalcy by August than we’ve had in the past year,” Inman said. 

Jalaya Harris

Among those watching the podcast were Jeia Moore and Jalaya Harris, two returning TSU students who attend classes online from their dorm rooms because of COVID-19. They wanted to know the efficacy of the vaccines, and when things would return to normal. 

“This podcast helped me understand the vaccine and what it actually helps me with, as well as the pros and cons of wearing a mask,” said Moore, a junior information systems major from Memphis, Tennessee. “To see 100 people on this podcast was heartwarming; the TSU family wants the best for each other.”

Harris agreed. 

“I got a lot of questions answered about how to be safe during this pandemic,” said Harris, a junior computer science major also from Memphis. “This podcast provided an informative and open space to gain and spread awareness and knowledge about this COVID.” 

Dr. Robbie Melton, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, said the podcast, presented monthly by the Department of Graduate and Professional Development, is intended to highlight experts at TSU who are usually heard only on the outside. 

“We are taking advantage of our own faculty members and staff who are usually called by people around the country, but we don’t take advantage of them,” Melton said. “Dr. Inman is an expert in addressing COVID-19 issues. But we have yet to have her present to our own faculty. So, this was a podcast to really address some of the fears, concerns and questions in an open forum.” 

Dr. Timothy Jones, TSU associate professor of Human Performance and Sport Sciences, who also listened in on the podcast, said Dr. Inman’s presentation was informative and highly educational. 

“She (Dr. Inman) was precise in presenting and debunking rumors about COVID-19 and the vaccine,” Jones said.

Dr. Inman is scheduled to do a Part 2 presentation on COVID-19 at the end of February.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and eight doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU experts say apprehension about COVID-19 vaccine based on history for African-American community

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – As the first coronavirus vaccine is distributed across the nation, African American health officials are working to ease concerns about the vaccine in black communities. 

Dr. Esther Lynch

African Americans are disproportionately getting sick and dying of COVID-19, but surveys suggest they’re more hesitant to get the vaccine than other racial and ethnic groups in the United States. History is a big reason for that, experts say.

“That we shouldn’t trust the government is a message that’s been sent down from generation to generation,” says Dr. Esther Lynch, an assistant professor in Tennessee State University’s Psychology Department who specializes in integrated behavioral health and trauma in marginalized populations.

“It doesn’t matter what area we touch on, there’s always some sort of injustice that has happened when it comes to people of color in general.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine last week, and another vaccine was expected to be approved as early as Friday, Dec. 18. Dr. Lynch, along with History and infectious disease experts at Tennessee State University, say they understand the concern African Americans have about the vaccines, but seriously suggest everyone should get vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus, especially in communities of color. 

She notes the Tuskegee Institute syphilis study, where black men were deceived and were withheld treatment. Then there was the eugenics project in Mississippi where thousands upon thousands of African American women who went to state health facilities for routine medical procedures were sterilized without their knowledge.

“There’s just too much distrust,” says Lynch. 

Recent figures show Tennessee has seen an average of 8,760 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 71 deaths per day. It has the most confirmed cases per capita among states and D.C. during the same period. Tennessee has received nearly 57,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and a second shipment of close to that amount is expected in the next few weeks.

Dr. Learotha Williams

State officials say health-care workers and nursing home residents will receive the vaccines first; second in line are expected to be essential workers, teachers, and first responders; then individuals with pre-existing conditions, and those over age 65.

Health experts say the vaccines won’t work unless enough people take them to establish herd immunity, or when most of the population is immune to the disease.  So far, COVID-19 has killed more than 300,000 Americans, and millions worldwide. 

Dr. Learotha Williams, a history professor at TSU, says African Americans’ apprehension concerning vaccines in general is understandable, but that they should give serious consideration to taking those that fight COVID-19 because of how the virus “disproportionately affects us.”

He says a number of black health experts have expressed similar sentiment, such as Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who has been leading the effort to combat COVID-19. Corbett, a research fellow and scientific lead at the National Institute of Health, is working with a team of scientists studying Moderna’s vaccine, one of the two COVID-19 vaccines shown to be effective by more than 90 percent.

Dr. Wendelyn Inman

“The black doctors that I know, that I trust, I don’t see them suggesting something that would harm us,” says Williams, an expert on African American and public history. 

Dr. Wendelyn Inman, an infectious disease expert and director of public health programs in TSU’s College of Health Sciences, has some advice for those who have reservations about the COVID-19 vaccines.

“I don’t see any reason to be concerned, but if you are, just wait a couple of weeks, or days, before you take yours,” says Inman, who previously was chief of epidemiology for the State of Tennessee. “You’ll be able to see how people react to the vaccine.”

To learn more about the vaccines and how they will be administered, contact your local health department, or visit the Tennessee Department of Health’s website:  http://bit.ly/38aZrfX.

NOTE: Featured photo courtesy of Reuters.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU using technology, innovative incentives to curb coronavirus spread among students and staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – College campuses across the country are using creative ways to battle the latest surge of the coronavirus. At Tennessee State University – with one of the lowest number of cases among Tennessee colleges – officials are using technology and offering incentives to students to help curb the spread of the virus among the campus population. 

Healthcare personnel say students are proactive and anxious about coming into the health center to register to be tested for the coronavirus. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

The university has stepped up its rapid testing, encourages students to do more contact tracing using a new software, and has set up electronic temperature checks around campus. Tigers Mask Up, an initiative that offers students discount cash coupons for observing proper protocols, has also been introduced. Additionally, the university encourages free discussion of the virus among students and staff. 

“It is not a taboo to talk about cases and persons who are experiencing symptoms. The open discussion helps,” says Dr. Curtis Johnson, chief of staff and head of the TSU Coronavirus Pandemic task force. 

He says the Tigers Mask Up initiative, introduced by the task force, is intended to recognize the efforts of students who go the “extra mile” to ensure compliance. 

TSU introduces a mobile app for contact tracing among the campus population.

“The task force monitors what’s going on and makes recommendations to modify activities when necessary or initiate efforts to move us ahead, and so far, our efforts are paying off,” Johnson says. 

A New York Times survey of more than 1,700 colleges and universities shows more than 214,000 cases and 75 deaths (mostly college employees) since the pandemic began, with Tennessee colleges accounting for 6,540 of those cases.  Since TSU reopened for the fall with hybrid learning, the university has reported less than 75 cases, with mostly mild to no symptoms and no hospitalization. 

Johnson and others attribute TSU’s low number to the university’s vigilance with testing and students’ overall cooperation with protocols put in place to keep them safe. The TSU Student Health Center is averaging between 50-100 students who come in per day to be tested. 

Tigers Mask Up initiative recognizes the efforts of students who go the “extra mile” to ensure compliance. 

Dana Humphrey, head nurse of the Student Health Center, says testing is going very well and students are very open to coming in to get tested. 

“The kids are really engaged and trying to come and get tested,” she says. “They are proactive and really anxious about follow-ups and making sure they are healthy.” 

Frequent testing is widely encouraged among the student population. In fact, the Aristocrat of Bands, and all sports program on campus have made testing mandatory for their members. Band members are required to test once a week if they live on campus, and twice a week if they live off campus. Members of all sports programs are required to test once a week. 

Kristian Davis, a freshman biology major from Birmingham, Alabama; and Terriana Holt, a senior human performance sports science major, have tested a combined 15 times. Davis was positive on her first test and went into mandatory quarantine. She says she came into contact with someone who was positive. Davis has since been cleared. 

“I have been tested six times,” she says. “I tested positive and went into isolation for two weeks. The staff was really nice, making sure I had everything I needed. I am glad TSU is making sure we are safe.” 

For Holt, a member of the AOB, where she plays the trumpet, the experience with frequent testing “is no sweat,” she says. 

“I really don’t mind because it is for my health and for the health of my fellow band members and the health of the school in general,” says Holt, who has tested nine times. “I see it as just a precaution.” 

Frank Stevenson, associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students, says students who test positive for COVID-19 are placed in an area identified as IQ, or isolation and quarantine zone where they receive “round the clock” service, including a health professional, meal service delivered three times a day, laundry service, and medication if needed. 

“We have had great success managing students who have tested positive in providing a safe and comfortable space for them to be in while they go through their time period mandated by the CDC,” says Stevenson. “We’ve had a couple of students who were taken to the hospital for checkup, but none have been admitted or hospitalized. For the most part, 95 percent of the students that we’ve encountered have had very mild to no symptoms.” 

Dr. William Hytche, assistant vice president of students affairs, manages activities in the IQ zone. He says students with positive cases are put in quarantine, while those who have been exposed or have been around someone who is positive, are put in isolation. Those in isolation are given a resting period to see if they develop the virus. In either case, a student stays in the IQ zone for a minimum of 10 days. To be released, Hytche says a student must be tested and produce two negative results over two days. 

“Students in the IQ zone have access to medical staff and must give a daily report of how they feel,” says Hytche. In addition to help with the student’s physical health, mental health services are also available. 

“If a student feels like, “The walls are closing in on me’, we get the university counselors involved who contact the student and evaluate their situation,” ‘Hytche says.

For updates or information on TSU’s COVID-19 protocols, go to http://www.tnstate.edu/return/ 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU President Glenda Glover stresses safety in virtual Faculty-Staff Institute, says University meeting COVID-19 challenges

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – As Tennessee State University reopened this week, President Glenda Glover assured employees that TSU has taken steps to make sure students and the campus community are safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.

TSU President Glenda Glover

Dr. Glover spoke during a virtual Fall 2020 Faculty-Staff Institute on Monday. Students moved into residence halls on Tuesday, August 11, and officially begin the fall semester on August 17.

“Our number one issue is your safety,” said Glover. “We have built in some safeguards to ensure your safety. We’re facing external challenges like never before. I remain grateful to you for your hard work, your devotion, your dedication.”

The President referred to the implementation of a comprehensive safety plan that includes a 14-day “safer in place” policy upon arrival for all students in residence halls. The policy requires students to stay in their places of residence unless they need to perform essential activities, such as getting food, or going to medical appointments.

She also noted a Pandemic Task Force that has been meeting just about every day to address issues related to the coronavirus, and a Fall Course Delivery Task Force she created to help develop the best strategy for classes this fall.

Under the plan, all classes will be online for the first two weeks, and there will be both in-person and online instruction throughout the semester, which will end by Thanksgiving. Additionally, classrooms have been assessed to determine the number of students that can occupy the rooms, based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Computer labs have also been marked to determine the number of persons allowed to use them at the same time. Desks and high-touch surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected throughout the day for classes, labs, and public areas between usage.

Other safety measures for the campus include wearing of face coverings and social distancing at all times; regular cleaning and sanitizing of buildings; temperature checks upon entering campus and randomly throughout campus; installation of shields throughout the campus; and establishment of a non-emergency COVID-19 phone line and email for reporting concerns.

During the Faculty-Staff Institute, Dean of Students Frank Stevenson said the university is focusing on the well-being of students by offering counseling and telehealth services.

“Students will have access to speak with a doctor 24 hours, seven days a week,” said Stevenson, who is also associate vice president for Student Affairs. “We want them to be successful.”

Despite the pandemic, Glover noted that the University “remains in sound financial condition.” She said first-year enrollment is up, as well as graduate student enrollment. The University’s endowment has also continued to grow, with an increase of more than $20 million since 2014.

The President also highlighted a new $38.3 million state-of-the-art Health Sciences Building scheduled to open sometime this month on campus.

“History will judge if we came together and did all we could to secure a strong future for our University, while building on its past,” Glover said.

Lecture halls receive thorough cleaning. (TSU Media Relations)

Dr. Kimberly Triplett, TSU Faculty Senate chair, said she’s optimistic about the year ahead.

“These are challenging times for the University due to the global coronavirus,” said Triplett. “But it’s my hope as we come together as a collective body … we will continue to make progress and continue to move the University forward for our students.”

To further assist students, the University decided to freeze tuition this year and offer discounts of up to 15 percent on fees and tuition for those who take all online courses. These discounts will depend on the student’s in-state or out-of-state status. Also, students who choose to do so will be allowed to cancel their housing and receive a full refund of their deposit.

Since students transitioned to remote learning in March as a result of COVID-19, TSU has made sure that they have digital devices, such as laptops, to successfully complete their coursework. TSU officials reiterated during the FSI meeting that going forward they will continue to make sure students have what they need, as well as faculty.

Dr. Cheryl Seay is executive director of TSU’s Global Online and the lead person in helping TSU faculty who may need assistance with online instruction. She said sessions are held seven days a week via Zoom to address faculty questions or concerns, and she’s pleased with the participation and adjustment. 

“The faculty have really stepped up to the plate, and shown their commitment,” said Seay. “They are doing everything they can to embrace this. I’m just really proud of our faculty.”

Additionally, the University is giving its alumni and others affected by the virus an opportunity to retool by partnering with Apple to help those individuals learn how to code and design apps. The “Everyone Can Code and Create” course will be offered online this fall through TSU’s National Center for Smart Technology Innovations, which is supported by the tech giant.

“TSU is the only institution that is taking what I call a comprehensive approach to help all of our stakeholders of alumni, faculty, students, staff and community,” said Dr. Robbie Melton, the Center’s director and head of TSU’s Global Online program. “We’re not leaving anyone out, due to the fact that COVID-19 hasn’t left anyone out.”

For information about more programs, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/online/.

To learn more about TSU’s campus operation plans for fall reopening, visit www.tnstate.edu/return.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU Nursing Graduate Returns Home After Fighting COVID-19 in New York, Credits University with Preparing Her

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Keisha Coleman is finally home for a well-deserved rest. For three months straight and working 13-hour shifts, the traveling nurse and Tennessee State University graduate was on the front line caring for COVID-19 patients in New York.

Keisha Coleman is taking a month off after caring for COVID-19 patients in New York. She plans to return to the front line. (Submitted Photo)

“I love my patients and I miss them but I was excited to come home,” says Coleman, a critical care nurse who worked in the intensive care units at several hospitals in New York.

“I didn’t want to leave them, but I was ready to come home just to see my family because they were home worried for me as well. My mom couldn’t sleep, she would text me late nights on the job to see if I am okay.”

Coleman always wanted to work in critical care and she says TSU prepared her well for the challenge. After earning her associate’s degree in nursing in 2017, she worked at Nashville General Hospital and St. Thomas Midtown Hospital in the Intensive Care Unit. After some time at St. Thomas, Coleman says she decided to be a traveling nurse, “and just then, COVID came.” Her first assignment was New York, one of the country’s hardest hit states.

“It was tough and scary at first, but I do think TSU prepared me well to be the nurse and strong woman I am,” says Coleman. “At some point of my assignment, instead of the usual two, I had four to five critical patients, who were sedated, on ventilators and paralyzed. It was scary when you have all of these critical patients you have to take care of.  You get to thinking about yourself, your health. Some nurses got infected. I can honestly say I was nervous about contracting the virus, but I came back home and I tested negative.”

Keisha Coleman earned her nursing degree from TSU in 2017. (Submitted Photo)

Like many healthcare workers on the front line in the early days of the pandemic, Coleman says the task was daunting – long hours, influx of patients and shortage of critically needed PPE’s, or personal protective equipment.

“From day one we were limited on PPEs that were needed to go in the rooms to take care of patients,” says Coleman. “When I got there, we had all COVID patients. When we gowned up, we had to go to multiple rooms with that one gown. Normally, we would take off that gown prior to leaving the room. Since we were so limited, we had to use the same gown in different patients’ rooms. It was so bad that at some points we had to use bleach to wipe down our gowns to reuse them. We were limited on gloves, masks and certain medications.”

Amid the shortage, Coleman says the patient load continued to climb, as hospitals ran out of space for patients and places to store the mounting number of dead people.

“After a lot of those patients died we didn’t have any rooms,” recalls Coleman. “We were putting them on the roof, in the basement and some in a tractor trailer outside. As all three places were full, we started putting bodies on a sled and just dump ice on them,” she says.

By the end of May, Coleman says things started to slow down. Some patients who had been admitted for up to three months began to get better – being able to walk, learn to talk, and breathe on their own.

“It was a good feeling,” she says. “I didn’t want to leave them, but I was ready to come home. But I am glad I went. It really was a humbling and rewarding experience. It is good to have this experience firsthand to tell my future children, and that I was on the front line helping.”

While Coleman’s situation was dire, she is one of several TSU nursing school graduates among the thousands of healthcare workers around the country responding to the influx of patients suffering from COVID-19. They’re conducting screenings, communicating to patients’ families, and above all, caring for the critically ill.

Dr. Pinky Noble-Britton, associate professor and director of TSU’s BSN program, says like Coleman, TSU nursing students are prepared to perform at the highest level of their profession in administering safe patient care.

“We push them and they are expected to use whatever resources they have to their best ability,” says Noble-Britton.

Knowing that her work is critical, especially with the new surge in coronavirus cases across the country, Coleman says she plans to take another month off and then head back to helping COVID patients.

“I plan to go back and help in one of the other states, like Florida, Texas or Arizona, which are epic centers,” says Coleman. “My plan is to travel and change lives, and just to know that I made a difference.”

Coleman also plans to return to TSU to earn her BSN degree. The program is now accepting applications for Fall 2020. The Traditional B.S.N. at TSU provides an instructional environment that teaches students how to provide holistic, ethical and culturally sensitive care to clients across the lifespan. To learn more about TSU’s nursing program, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/nursing/

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.