DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Student Spotlight > Meet the COVID-19 Prevention and Response team helping keep the community safe

Meet the COVID-19 Prevention and Response team helping keep the community safe

From left to right, Rachana Gaddam, Rutendo Chimbaru, Noor Razi Ali Syed, and Saransh Thakur
COVID-19 prevention and response team members, from left, Rachana Gaddam, Rutendo Chimbaru, Noor Razi Ali Syed and Saransh Thakur help keep the DePaul community safe. (Randall Spriggs/DePaul University)

“Take Care DePaul" has become a common phrase heard around campus since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. From wearing a mask, social distancing and staying home when feeling ill, the entire DePaul community has done its part to help stop the spread of the virus. 

However, for some DePaul community members, the phrase, “Take Care DePaul" has taken on a different meaning. It has been the driving force behind their daily work. Blue Demon staff and student employees managed and executed COVID-19 testing daily. Even more impressive, they built the entire testing program from the ground up with the help of their supplies and software partner, SHIELD Illinois.  

“We had to start from scratch," says Kunal Lohana, who earned a master's in public health from DePaul and serves as a COVID-19 prevention and response coordinator. “Everything from the inventory to the processes was a team effort."

On-campus testing began during  spring quarter 2021 after receiving feedback from students, faculty and staff. Testing expanded after DePaul's decision to require all community members be vaccinated against the virus. If someone had a valid exemption from receiving the vaccine, they were required to test on-campus weekly.

Megan Gamiz, an executive assistant in Student Affairs, recalls the hard work that went into building and refining the university's testing program. “The biggest challenge at the beginning was creating the testing compliance process after DePaul's vaccine requirement was announced," Gamiz says. “We didn't have another model to base it on. We spent weeks together reviewing every email and determining how best to organize, prioritize and respond to messages."

Throughout the 2021-2022 academic year, testing was available free-of-charge to any DePaul student, faculty or staff member, regardless of their vaccination status. It was offered five days a week - three days on the Lincoln Park campus and two days on the Loop campus. Testing times were also modified based on community demand to accommodate everyone's schedule, even offering evening hours.

When a student, faculty or staff member arrived at a campus testing site, they were greeted by a student worker who helped move them through the testing process; from check-in, to test tube handout and then finally, sample collection. Since Sept. 2, 2021, the team helped the community complete more than 9,500 COVID-19 tests.

“COVID has been a new experience for everyone," says Rutendo Chimbaru, who earned a master's degree in health communication from DePaul and serves as a COVID-19 prevention and response coordinator. "The important pieces are to make sure everyone's beliefs are respected, while also keeping the DePaul community safe."

Christian Saulog is a student marketing communications assistant in the Division of Student Affairs.