SRU partners with Allegheny Health Network amidst pandemic

AHN provides guidance with SRU'S COVID-19 mitigation plans


Slippery Rock University partnered with Allegheny Health Network (AHN) in May to use their consultative services in the development of SRU’s mitigation plans for the fall 2020 semester.

As SRU was finalizing the plans for the upcoming semester, AHN provided feedback and guidance on topics like student health services, emergency management and the COVID-19 response team.

Mitigation, infection control, prevention of disease spread and patient care are the four main areas in which AHN provides services and assistance to Slippery Rock.

According to Kristina Benkeser, director of student health services, AHN has been a loyal, dedicated partner to SRU in the past and their services are especially important during these times. Benkeser said the health network also offered the best package in terms of the number and quality of their experts.

Benkeser added that AHN was “a logical fit,” as AHN Grove City is the Student Health Center’s first option when referring students to other facilities in the area.

The SRU COVID-19 response team, Benkeser and AHN experts meet on a weekly basis every Wednesday afternoon. Benkeser reports the meeting’s findings to the president’s cabinet on Thursday morning. Other than this, Benkeser said they remain in contact throughout the week through email.

Citing the fall 2020 return planning guide, SRU follows the guidelines set by the Center of Disease Control (CDC) in regards to social distancing and masks and face coverings, along with the guidance of AHN.

AHN provides consultation for “when to call it,” as the CDC can only provide general information rather than specific protocols, according to Benkeser.

“They’re like, ‘Here are things you need to think about,’ but no hard and fast, ‘This is when you shut it down.’ ‘This is when you totally stop in-person classes,'” Benkeser said.

For example, when the CDC changed their close contact testing protocols, SRU asked for specific consultation from the infectious disease doctors of the AHN about when the best time would be to test close contacts of those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Benkeser said this fall 2020 semester is very different than the spring 2020 semester. Because of this, Benkeser wanted access to experts who could help guide their decisions as a university, like making sure SRU is abiding by the CDC guidelines or when to move in-person classes to an online format.

AHN also assists SRU in on-campus isolation in the residence halls for students who have tested positive.

Benkeser said a growing concern now is what to do with students who are in isolation when the semester ends and the residence halls close. She said they will be discussing this at the next meeting.

“We are trying to run the university in a manner that keeps students safe,” Benkeser said. “[The goal is keeping students] as safe as possible, while also maximizing opportunities for engagement.”

Benkeser clarified that although they have started to discuss plans for the spring 2021 semester, nothing is finalized yet. She explained that most plans for next semester are going to be dependent on the state and federal guidelines, as well as when the finalized academic plans are released.

For more details about student and faculty safety measures, visit the SRU’s website to review the fall 2020 return planning guide. For an updated number of positive COVID-19 campus cases, visit SRU’s campus COVID cases webpage.


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