A Message from Dr. Richard Friend, Dean of the College of Community Health Sciences

August 26, 2020

University Medical Center has been a leader in preparing The University of Alabama campus community for the arrival of students for the fall 2020 semester. We have spent countless hours and used all resources at our disposal to help make campus as safe as possible for the start of classes.

Among our major undertakings was COVID-19 testing of UA faculty, staff and students. During an eight-day period in July, we tested nearly 6,000 UA employees at Coleman Coliseum. Just days before classes started on August 19, the UA President’s Office reached out to UMC and asked us to help with student COVID-19 testing. We spent last week testing students, also at Coleman Coliseum.

We will also be involved in sentinel testing. This involves testing people across a community, in this case the UA campus community, including those who might not be sick, in order to discover if there is unseen transmission of COVID-19.

UA’s COVID-19 Response Team will be involved in these efforts. The team of 29 workers is based at the College of Community Health Sciences, which operates University Medical Center. The Response Team has helped with our recent COVID-19 testing, is conducting contact tracing on campus, and is answering hundreds of calls and questions received by the University’s COVID-19 Hotline. These are not Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm jobs. It’s hard work, day in and day out, including nights and weekends. The dedication of these individuals and their tireless efforts to keep our students and campus safe is inspiring.

In addition, we continue to reach out across the UA campus to provide medical and health information about COVID-19, and to address concerns about the virus. We currently have 22 of our UMC faculty physicians partnered with UA colleges and programs to help monitor health conditions, and to answer questions about COVID-19. Each UA college, school and program, including the Million Dollar Band, Capstone Village retirement community and the RISE Center, has a specific UMC doctor to contact should they have questions about the virus, and about the practices enacted by the University to keep campus safe.

These are not easy times, and there is still much to learn about COVID-19. We are writing the textbook as we go, but I think we are all getting better at dealing with this pandemic, both on campus and off. I believe the action taken earlier this week by Tuscaloosa’s mayor to close bars and suspend alcohol service at restaurants for 14 days will help improve the trajectory of COVID-19 cases we are seeing in our community.

At CCHS and UMC, we have seen very few infections when people take appropriate precautions – when they wear face coverings, practice social distancing and wash their hands frequently. This is an important message for the UA campus and for the West Alabama community as well.

Now, more than ever, we need to take care of each other.

The College of Community Health Sciences operates University Medical Center