Trump admin consults UA System Chancellor Fess St. John on reopening America’s schools
University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John IV on Wednesday joined an exclusive national group for a discussion with Vice President Mike Pence and other key Trump administration officials on how to best get Americans safely back to school in the fall.
Pence led the discussion (via teleconference) with higher education leaders from across the country to discuss an all-of-America approach to respond to COVID-19 and drive a phased national economic revival.
In addition to the vice president, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx discussed best practices to resume on-campus instruction in the fall.
They also discussed guidance released by President Donald J. Trump and the CDC, which calls upon colleges and universities to develop, implement and maintain a plan to ensure the health and safety of students, faculty and staff. Pence thanked everyone on the call for their hard work in accomplishing this goal.
The White House explained that many participants on the call discussed working groups they developed on campus to provide data-driven strategies for reopening. Participants further discussed the importance of opening and maintaining research labs to assist with COVID-19 research, testing and tracing.
UA System at the forefront of battling COVID-19, reopening America
The UA System weeks ago announced the creation of a task force led by UAB Health System experts to develop plans for the System’s three campuses to be the safest universities in America when on-campus instruction resumes following the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
It should also be noted that once the task force has completed its work, the UA System will make the plans available to other two- and four-year colleges and universities.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), one of three distinct UA System campuses, has also been a national leader when it comes to the medical and research sides of the COVID-19 equation.
In addition to being on the front lines of patient care and serving others doing the same, UAB is spearheading relevant drug discovery, leading the charge on the development of possible therapeutics against COVID-19. One of the most promising treatments is remdesivir, developed under the guidance of the UAB-led Antiviral Drug Discovery and Development Center.
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the NIH recently said that remdesivir is now the national standard of care for hospitalized patients with moderate to severe illness.
UAB is offering remdesivir to select patients via clinical trial, along with the following treatments: Nitric oxide, convalescent plasma, selinexor, tocilizumab and canakinumab on cytokine release syndrome.
Tracking the virus is also a critical element in America’s reopening plan. A group of UAB experts created an online symptom tracker to help determine the spread of the virus. As of two weeks ago, more than 58,000 people were using this tool to track their daily symptoms, providing up-to-date information that tracks the progression of symptoms in communities in real-time. The resulting interactive map shows hot spots that indicate a rise in symptoms.
Alabama, via the UA System, is at the forefront of the effort to reopen America, which was apparent in Wednesday’s call.
Clay Ryan, vice chancellor for Governmental Affairs & Economic/Workforce Development, told Yellowhammer News in a statement, “Chancellor St. John presented on the four pillars of our plans for reopening our campuses: testing, tracking, tracing, and treatment.”
“Vice President Pence and Dr. Birx were impressed by the Help Beat Covid-19 symptom tracking tool, and we believe this group of higher education leaders will reconvene in the next few weeks at the White House to discuss fall plans with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and other members of the White House task force,” Ryan concluded.
The Trump administration believes that the important discussion on Wednesday provided insight into a new chapter of reopening America, as well as what colleges and universities are doing to meet their individual needs, aligned with state leadership.
The vice president thanked the group for their commitment to safely reopen their institutions and indicated he looked forward to additional updates on progress in the near future.
Higher education participants on the call, in addition to St. John, were as follows:
President of Purdue University and the 49th governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels, Jr.
President of University of Texas- El Paso and the 24th Secretary of Air Force Dr. Heather Wilson
President of Hillsdale College Dr. Larry Arnn
President of Marquette University Dr. Michael Lovell
President of the University of Virginia James E. Ryan
President of University of Florida Dr. W. Kent Fuchs
President of University of Notre Dame Rev. John Jenkins
President of Carnegie Mellon University Dr. Farnam Jahanian
President of The Ohio State University Dr. Michael V. Drake
President of Stanford University Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne
President of Wake Forest University Dr. Nathan Hatch
President of Arizona State University Dr. Michael Crow
President of Hampton University Dr. William R. Harvey
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn