Interview with Juliana Kahrs, 01/14/2022

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐GL: All right, and this is Grace Lim interviewing Juliana Kahrs on Friday, January 14, 2022. For Campus COVID Stories. Campus COVID Stories is a collection of oral stories from students and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh about their experiences in the time of COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Before we get started, could you please state your name and spell it for us?

JK: Juliana Kahrs. J-U-L-I-A-N-A K-A-H-R-S.

GL: Now for the purposes of getting a good audio recording, tell us who you are and what your title is here at UW Oshkosh.

JK: My name is Juliana Kahrs and I serve as assistant director of Health Promotion at UW Oshkosh.

GL: Alright, before we dive into your Campus COVID Story, we just like to get to know you a little better. Tell us about where you grew up. You know, your- what your parents did.

JK: Sure. I was born in Pittsburgh, and then I grew up mostly in Valparaiso, 00:01:00Indiana, just northwest Indiana, about 50 miles south of Chicago. My mother actually worked in college admissions for a long time. But then she stopped working, when she after she had my younger brother. And my dad worked at US Steel, and which is why we lived in Pittsburgh, we lived in Northwest Indiana, we lived in Detroit for a little while. So yeah.

GL: In your family was the idea of going to college is just a given?

JK: Yeah, for the most part it. Both of my parents went to college. So yeah, I always anticipated going into college, but I'd never really knew what I wanted to do.

GL: Where did you end up going to college and what degree or degrees did you earn?


JK: I went to Denison University in Granville, Ohio, which is a small liberal arts college. And my degree was in Sport Science and Spanish.

GL: And how did you come to work at UW Oshkosh?

JK: So, I eventually I went to Miami University and got my master's degree in health promotion. And my goal after that was to get a job either in an institution of higher education or in a research setting. And I found a job as a health promotion coordinator at UW Oshkosh, and it wasn't too far away. It's a four-hour drive from my parents and ended up getting it.

GL: What year did you know did you come here? And what was your, so that was 00:03:00your position at that time?

JK: At the time I moved here in 2015, in January 2015, to be health promotion coordinator at the Student Health Center. And I didn't know anybody in Wisconsin at all, I'd actually never been to Wisconsin before I came up for my interview. So that was and moving here in January was kind of tough. It was, it's still cold, but it's 250 miles north of where I grew up, so and it is colder.

GL: So pre COVID, what was your title and your responsibilities?

JK: So before so, a few years after I started here, I then health promotion was moved over to recreation and wellness. And then I was promoted to Assistant Director of Health Promotion. And I had two staff well one professional staff 00:04:00moved under me who is the sexual interpersonal violence prevention coordinator. So, I was overseeing our violence prevention and confidential advocacy services as well.

GL: And this is under the wellness, rec and wellness.

JK: Yes.

GL: Okay. What does it mean to be a health promotion? You know, and what is that field?

JK: So, it is a sub area of public health. And so, it is focused on individual and community health education and enabling our communities and in higher ed our students to make healthy choices to live healthy lives to be well so that they can succeed in school and beyond, ultimately, so it might be creating 00:05:00environments like ensuring that we're providing adequate nutritional options in the dining halls, or it could be making sure that mental health services are accessible. And students are aware of those services that that we have. Some of the other things we've done, are related to policies and practices with violence prevention, making sure that survivors have the right have the information that they need to make the decisions that are best for them. It's a lot of education on an individual level, but also a community level.

GL: Do you deal directly with students?

JK: Yes.

GL: How? Do they make appointments with you? I mean, how does that work?


JK: So, I, I do oversee, a staff of pure wellness educators, so student employees, and I do all of the education and training for the Peer Health Advocates in the residence halls. So, I work really closely with residence life, I've always worked closely with Student Health, being in that department for a few years and then not but still working very closely with them.

GL: So, you oversee so you have one person that you directly oversee?

JK: Correct, correct.

GL: And then then you work with the peer health advocates?

JK: Peer Health Advocates in the residence halls, and then we have peer wellness educators, which is a separate staff, they essentially, they do the same things. But the health advocates, do those have that role in the residence halls, and 00:07:00they provide over the counter medications, first aid supplies, all those types of things for students that are, there's things that are for free, and for purchase, and then they do programs to promote health, education, and all kinds of topics. So different dimensions of health and wellness, we always, it's not just the physical health, but also the mental, social, spiritual, emotional, environmental, there's just so many financial wellness, we've done a lot with. We've worked with the UW credit union and financial aid department to do education on finances, and just all kinds of topics that are relevant for our students.

GL: Certainly, have to say, I didn't know this existed. I'm sorry.


JK: That's okay.

GL: So, do you actually deal with the student population at large?

JK: In what way?

GL: So, when you say, you know, like mental health, resources something like that, do you, do they come to you to find that or do they?

JK: Sometimes. Yeah, I would say that. I've been working with individual students; I've done a lot of nutrition education. But in terms of other and also the violence advocate advocacy for victims and survivors, for sure. But I don't really, other than those areas, I haven't really done individual appointments with students. That's, it's more about the communication and the general awareness and education that we do to ensure that students know about the things that that are accessible to them.



Alright, so um, let's move to the early days of COVID. Do you recall the first time you actually heard about this virus?

JK: I don't remember the first time I heard about it. But I, I know it was in probably December, January, December 2019, January 2020. I was going I went on a, a work trip to a conference the first week of March with a group of people from here actually. Chief Leibold, Buzz Bares, Art Munin, Alicia Johnson from the Women's Center. We all went we're in Atlanta the first week of March, and I had a cold earlier. So, I sort of had a cold that it was ending early in that first week and I kept thinking to myself I'd better not cough on the plane, 00:10:00everyone's can think I have COVID. But that was really sort of my first thoughts about it.

GL: At what point did you decide that this is something actually we need to think about?

JK: I think it was during that time, that trip that we took, because I remember being in the airports that first week of March, and it was very eerie. And to see quite a few people wearing face masks, and also to see how empty it was. There were a lot of I think there was a lot of people not starting to not travel at that point. And so that was when I thought this is, this is going to be bad.

GL: And then did you get any heads up about the university closing down or 00:11:00shutting down for a few weeks or any of that before the actual memo came out from the administration?

JK: No.

GL: So, you got the word as I did? We're going online or we're canceling week, seven, I think and then taking that week and then spring break to then go fully online.

JK: Yeah, so I so what happened I think this the second week of March, so I was gone most of the first week, the second week of March at the Rec and Wellness Center, we have it's the second Saturday in March normally is our shamrock shuffle 5k events. And we had to cancel that. And so that was before we actually closed. But I remember all of our staff being in our conference room and being in shock that we have to cancel this event. And then it was about the same time 00:12:00the following week, when we were all back in that same conference room, saying, okay, I think we're going home. So, what do we do now? Just all looking at each other. I don't know.

GL: The Shamrock shuffle. How many people usually show up for that?

JK: I don't actually know.


That's okay. I know.

JK: A couple 1000 normally, yeah.

GL: So, whose decision was that to cancel this big event?

JK: I think, I think it really came from above us. I think it was a vice chancellor. I actually honestly don't remember whose decision it was. It's not, it's not it's not my event. My colleague, Jordan Mooney, who's our fitness services coordinator manages that event. So, I don't know.


GL: So, who brought you in? And I mean, you know describe the last time that you all got together.

JK: As a staff? It was the Monday, March 16, I think, because it was Tuesday, St. Patrick's Day, that we all went home. But we so as a staff, we got together over instead of doing the Shamrock shuffle, we got together as just a staff, and we did the course together outside. And then we went to get brunch and had our families with us and then on the following Monday, we were all sitting in this 00:14:00conference room. We called it our situation room. Because so many things had come up recently where we had situations to deal with. And there were we were all looking at each other and thought okay, well, are we closing the building? What's expected of us now how long is this going to last? We all know it felt like a very familial like, like family environment us sitting all together, trying to figure out what we were going to be doing but nobody knew.

GL: Who, do you recall how many people were in that room? Who was in the room?

JK: So, Nate Scott the director of rec and wellness, Tony Dearth is our Associate Director, Greg Batten is our Assistant Director of Programs, Jill 00:15:00Reichenberger was our administrative assistant, Jordan Mooney our fitness services coordinator, me, Gabrielle Schwartz, our sexual and interpersonal violence prevention coordinator, Patrick Marco who's our intramural, our rec Plex coordinator. So, the dome, the big bubble, he coordinates everything that happens in that area. And Steve Brown, our strength and conditioning coordinator.

GL: I want to go back to the tiny shamrock shuffle. How many of you showed up to do that course?

JK: 10 of us plus a few friends.

GL: And you just ran the course together?

JK: Yeah.

GL: That's great. That's great. So, I mean, when you're running that course, 00:16:00what were what went through your mind that, you know, you're showing up for something that you had usually have several 1000, a couple 1000 people showing up and here you are 10 people 10 people.

JK: There was a lot of work that went into that event. And then just was canceled the week before. And so, I think it was our way of showing each other that this was this was valuable to us that we valued the hard work that everyone that people had put into, to planning it. And I think I felt like things were gonna be okay, we have a very supportive staff. We'd figure it out.

GL: Did you make it into a race where it was a really fun run? Jog? Walk?


JK: Yeah.

GL: Okay, so you guys were told we're going home. What were you thinking? Were you thinking that this is something that's gonna last couple of weeks? Or? Yeah, just tell me what you're thinking.

JK: Yeah, I thought it was going to last a few weeks. We all thought it would be a few weeks. And I don't I'm in some ways, I was a little relieved. March is a time in the year when we're just march and April, we're exhausted. I mean, everybody is on campus, right? And I was exhausted from so much of the other work I had done throughout the year. And I thought maybe this is just going to 00:18:00be a nice little break.

GL: So, what was your work situation like at home? Were you able to do your work?

JK: Yeah, I was pretty fortunate that I could work from home. I didn't have any office setup. So, it started on the couch. And then it moved to a folding table in the living room. And I live in a pretty small two-bedroom apartment with my partner and who's a high school math teacher. And so, he was also trying to figure out how he was going to be teaching at home. And so, he was in one of the rooms and I was in the living room. And we were both just trying to figure out 00:19:00how we were going to make it work.

GL: And then when it became clear that we were going to be closed like we're not going to be on campus for the rest of the semester, what was going through your mind at that time?

JK: I was concerned about my student employees. So, I have a my direct report staff of about 10 student employees. I was concerned about those who were graduating and who we weren't going to be able to celebrate, the students who I was hoping we're going to be coming back in the in the following fall but not being able to really connect with them too much. I think that was really tough because they weren't they weren't ready to have all kinds of like Teams meetings at that point the way that we are now. And we didn't know how long it was gonna 00:20:00be. So, we didn't know if we needed to do those types of things. And then it kept going on and on. And I just I was worried about how they were doing.

GL: So, at that time, I think every department had, you know, across the campus had to figure out which employees need to be here on campus, and were deemed essential to the, I guess, the running of the campus. And were you among that group?

JK: That had to be on campus? No, none of our staff, I think had to be on campus because our facility was closed.

GL: And were you. Did you work through the summer?

JK: Yes.

GL: So, you were not among the people that needed to be furloughed?


JK: Correct.

GL: Did you have to furlough anybody in your staff?

JK: Yes.

GL: And.

JK: About half our staff.

GL: How? I know that some people have said that was one of the most difficult things I had to go through what about?

JK: Yeah, a lot of my colleagues within the department and other departments of colleagues and friends were furloughed, and it was really hard to it was hard at first to stay connected to people. And I think the only reason that initially I wasn't furloughed was because I was providing the violence prevention advocacy services, along with my employee, Gabrielle Schwartz. And our staff at REC and 00:22:00wellness is pretty close. I mean, people, we do things together outside of work, too. We get we bring our families together sometimes. And Jordan Mooney, our fitness services coordinator, he, he started doing a weekly stretching session over teams. So, I mean, as a staff, you know, we're recreation and wellness, right? So, we'll often go on bike rides together sometimes, or do the rock-climbing wall. People are pretty active and we enjoy doing those things together. And so, he would just nobody really wanted to do a workout video 00:23:00together over teams. But as our fitness services coordinator, he oversees a group exercise instructors and personal trainers. And he just led stretches over teams, and I would put it up on my big TV at home. And I just lay on the floor and do the stretches.

GL: Is this a part, I mean, during your meetings? Or is this something that hey, Jordans is doing this, we all have to jump in?

JK: That was just a totally separate thing from a meeting. And it wasn't it, it was people who had been furloughed to who were coming to that just to get together. Just to stay connected.

GL: That's great. So, um, at what point did were you asked to be part of the EOC?

JK: So, I, I didn't actually look back in my emails to check the exact dates.


GL: We can get that later. Okay.

JK: I might be able to, I don't know. I don't want to look for it now. I think it was in May or June. Probably May. I was asked to serve on the implementation team. So, it was after the, what was the original?

GL: The EOC?

JK: Not the EOC. It was like the people who came up with general recommendations like.

GL: The recovery Task Force?

JK: Recovery task force. So, I was not on that. But the recovery task force came up with all these recommendations to you know, to create an implementation team and then to have you know, from that people who would ask actually implement the 00:25:00things that the implementation team came up with. And so, I was asked to serve on the implementation team. Art Munin and Chief Leibold, both together spoke with me about it. And they weren't exactly sure what they wanted me to do. But they knew they, they, they thought there was a role for me in this group.

GL: And what did you end up doing?

JK: So, I ended up doing within the implementation team group, we had this organizational chart of here's all the things that are going on, like academic affairs, student affairs, University Affairs, you know, all the things. And then there was a separate box where it was COVID response. And so, I was overseeing all of the planning for the things we were going to do with COVID response. And 00:26:00what does COVID response mean? So COVID response included isolation, and quarantine and Student Care. So, figuring out working with residence life, primarily, also dining services, and custodial services, to figure out what was going to be our plan for isolation and quarantine, housing. How are we going to do that? And how are we going to communicate this with students? How are we going to make sure that they're doing okay? So that was one, one component of it. Another component was compliance. So how are we going to ensure that people 00:27:00are doing what they're supposed to do? How are we going to make sure that the standard operating procedures are communicated out and that people understand them, and that they're updated consistently? That was a piece of it. Employee support was another component. So, I have these like different boxes of all the things within COVID response. Employee support, so I work with HR Holly Shea, mostly to figure out what was the guidance that we needed to provide employees when somebody in their department tested positive? And maybe it was some somebody who had to be here at work. And so were we going to require employees to report that yes or no. And then we said, okay, yes, we're going to require 00:28:00employees to report that if they don't get tested on campus, how are they going to report that? So then coming up with a form that they can submit for positive test results. Making sure there was response to those forms that came in for off campus test, making sure that if somebody who had been working on campus was in a if they that their office was closed off, that their supervisor was notified, that if their space needed to be 360, Clorox 360 that we did that if they were in a, like an open office area.

GL: Okay.

JK: There's more components.

GL: Okay. Let me just stop there for a second. I mean, frankly, that the fact that you got the COVID-19 response is just I, my mind was blown, just thinking, 00:29:00What the heck, I mean, I'm the only you your name is on under that box, or by that box, right?

JK: Yeah, it was actually really, it was very surreal for me to see, you know, as a young professional, like my name in a leadership capacity next to like, all the Vice Chancellors that was, was very surreal. And I mean, it wasn't only me, there was a lot of people involved with this. But ultimately, it was it was me putting the pieces together for others to understand.

GL: I know, you said there are other components but let's, what did you have to do? I mean, was it a lot of research? Was it a lot of talking to different people? Just give me an example.


JK: Yeah. So, my background is in health promotion, but really a lot of that is public health. So, I have an educational background in public health, I worked within the student health center. So, I understood the medical side of things to, to an extent in terms of administration and an organization and the clinical settings. And I had contacts that I have people that I had worked with from the County Health Department throughout the years that I've been here. And so, one of the first things I did was connect with the County Health Department to figure out what their recommendations for our campus were and for our COVID response, and what were the pieces that we needed to be thinking about and 00:31:00coming up with plans for. And so, they really helped us helped me to understand all of the pieces that we needed to be thinking about. And then they provided some of the resources and guidance for what they do. And so, we were really taking everything that they do for positive cases and trying to apply it in the university setting.

GL: Go ahead and tell me some of the other components that you were I guess responsible for.

JK: Yeah, so contact tracing. And not just contact tracing, I think a lot of people hear contact tracing, and they think that that's all like contact tracing 00:32:00is secondary to disease investigation. So, disease investigation, is what you do with the positive cases. It's sort of like it's case management. There's a whole long interview that you go through with them initially. And I was trained by the health department to do disease investigation, the way that they do it. And then the contact tracing piece is like the second layer of that. So then based on that disease investigation, that interview, then you go out from there, and you say, okay, these are all of the close contacts of this person. And now we have to contact those people. And so, we adapted the public health process, to doing 00:33:00all that to the our setting, to our campus setting. And so that was that is probably the, the piece that has taken up the most for me, over the course of the pandemic. Initially, it wasn't the only the biggest piece necessarily, but it was the one where I had to do a lot of research in terms of what are best practices for congregate living settings? What are best practices for, for college students? In general. What are what are the things that we need to be thinking about that are different for students who live on campus versus off 00:34:00campus? And then I talked to a lot of other people in the state. So other I'm connected with most of the health centers or health promotion offices, at the other UW schools and have multiple people that I would talk to and see, what are you doing for this? And how are you going to do this? And mostly people didn't know. And so, we had to come up with something new, and actually the county ended up so then I had to find okay, I feel like I need to stop for a second. So, so what I quickly realized in working with the county, learning from them, and doing all of this research was that we really, we needed a team of people 00:35:00doing this work if we wanted to do it, and actually be effective in using this strategy.


So, when you're, when you're doing this research, we haven't, this is before we set up our testing center, right?

JK: Yes.

GL: So, this is during the summer that you're, you're coming across all this? So, then you realize that you need a team of disease of investigators and contact tracers. Okay. So, I want to just get, I'm gonna go back a couple steps. How many hours a day were you spending on this would you say?

JK: 12 easily. And I got married in August 2020. So also, re planning a wedding 00:36:00that was gonna be 200 people to go down to 20 people. So, I worked a lot in the summer of 2020, which wasn't something I was really used to.

GL: You're a 12-month employee?

JK: Yes.

GL: Okay. Were you still doing your regular job on top of that stuff you're doing for the, you know, the, the implementation team.

JK: So, I was actually reassigned full time to work for university police. So technically, Chief Leibold, Chief Leibold is my supervisor. And I was reassigned 1.0 FTE to work for him in this role and reassigned as COVID 19 response project coordinator. So.

GL: Are you still under that title now?

JK: Yes.

GL: Okay. What happened to your position in the wellness center?


JK: I'm still doing that right now. To the extent that I can, it's, it's much more limited. So.

GL: Okay, so when did you tell the group or who did you tell that, okay, we need a team?


Probably in early July, like end of June, early July.

GL: And what became your recommendation?

JK: I said, well, let's try to find people. And what I decided to do is try to find current UW employees whose jobs might be very different, given the 00:38:00pandemic, so people who do events and programming that they wouldn't be able to do that kind of work. But also, people who had really good communication and problem-solving skills. And were okay with talking to parents, too. I mean, there were a lot of soft skills that were important to look for. But also trying to find staff who may maybe it could be repurposed in this role.


And did you were you able to put together a team?

JK: Yeah. Yes.

GL: How many people?

JK: At the most, at the point where we had the most people it was about 30 people.


GL: To do both the disease investigation and the contact tracing?

JK: And then the hotline.

GL: And I know I spoke with Captain Tarmann. He also worked in the testing center for the first month or so.

JK: I did too. Yeah, we. So, I put this team together. And I had a few. So actually, there were several people that I was able to bring back early from that full time furlough. People that I knew were really we're going to be really good at this job. And one of those people was Jordan Mooney is the fitness services coordinator. Now there was Carmen Hetzel, who works in Reeve Union. The two of them really became my team leaders within that disease investigation, 00:40:00contact tracing and hotline team. Carmen Hetzel really was the brains behind everything that we did with the hotline. And if she's not on your list of people to talk to, she would probably be a good one.


Tell me about the hotline.

JK: So, the hotline was something that we figured out very late in the preparation stages. So, it was like middle to end of August, when we realized that people were going to be calling all over the place, trying to get answers to questions that people on the other end of the phone are not going to know. And given our testing strategy, with the rapid antigen tests, which was very 00:41:00controversial early on, in the pandemic rapid tests hadn't really hit the market and in lots and a lot of other ways in a very public capacity. So, with people getting their test results so quickly, they couldn't call Prevea, Prevea was dealing with 1000s of, of community members to. So, we couldn't have a student call Prevea expecting to get instructions on what they should do in terms of campus situations. And so, we realized that we needed to provide some kind of resource for people to call if they had questions right away, or they because students were scared. People were scared when they were first diagnosed with 00:42:00COVID. I talked to many students who just were in tears, students at the testing center and over the phone. And they were so upset, and their families would be upset, and then their families would be calling to the Chancellor's office trying to get information that nobody could really give them. And so, we had our team of disease investigators and contact tracers, they all had phones that were loaned by the county health department. And when we use the jabber app, Eric May from IT was able to help us set up the hotline service so that these staff who were going to be on the phone all throughout the day anyways, with calling positives and close contacts., they could also answer calls that when people 00:43:00were had questions on what to do.

GL: Once again, I have to, you have to excuse my ignorance about this. I realize now I'm been incredibly insular with my own issues with COVID and instruction and what I you know, my world, but I had no idea this was happening either. So, the how many calls were you getting in the early days, would you say?

JK: 30 to 50 calls a day.

GL: And how many calls were your team making regarding contact tracing?

JK: Depended on how many positives we had. So, there was one week in September, where we had 60 to 90 positives a day. And that week, we weren't really calling anybody for contact tracing, though. That was just calling positives.


GL: Okay, so, um, you were able to get your team of, you know, for the testing site, tell, tell us about that first week. You know, what, what, how did it go that first week of the testing site being open, and this is a first week of school or this is before school started?


It was move in week. So, it was the week prior to move in. And I think we had testing available one or two days prior to the move in like the first-year student move in. But we didn't, we had no idea we were doing. We didn't know how to run a testing center. Nobody really did at that point. I mean, there were a lot of great things set up through Prevea. And Kim really Kim Langolf worked 00:45:00with them to make sure that we had the basics of what we needed. And we had staff, who, actually the staff, the LTE staff at the testing center that we hired through the what's it called? It's like a staffing service, temp staff service, atrium, something like that. They were actually supervised initially by Patrick Marco, who was he's the Rec Plex coordinator at REC and wellness. So, he was the one who was getting them on boarded and hired and making sure all the hiring paperwork was done. And so, he was often at the testing center as well. And then it was, so it was him, Chris Tarmann, myself, Kim Langolf, Nate Scott 00:46:00was there sometimes as well. But we ran the testing center for probably the first eight weeks of the semester. We didn't have a testing center supervisor. And we had there were so many issues constantly. So, we'd have a line of people, here's where you check in. And then here's a line of, you know, issues, questions that need to be answered. And we were doing maybe 200 tests a day. And Chris Tarman, and I especially, we were often there from 7am till 7pm. And it was just getting up to take a break to go to the bathroom was a lot.


GL: So, this, um, the first when you guys opened up, just do you remember even that first time do you guys let people in? Were there people waiting outside or?

JK: I don't really remember.

GL: What were you doing on that first day?

JK: On the first day, I was at the front desk, sort of front desk, it wasn't it really a desk. Helping people figure out how to sign up for appointments.


This is Albee, correct?




This is the gymnasium?


Yes. So, people would come after they moved in. Or saying, you know, they would 00:48:00come early and say well, I'm moving in tomorrow. And because we had required testing prior to move in or upon move in maybe the same day. And but people didn't know how to sign up for the testing. And because they didn't know how to sign up for the testing, we didn't have the appointments weren't set up correctly in the electronic medical record. I learned how to use epic. I learned how to navigate electronic medical record, how to create appointments, patient profiles, input results, like test results. Those are all things that they do in medical clinics. That's not normally what I would do. So, it was kind of surreal going through all of that.



At that time, and we still didn't have the vaccine. I mean, were you at all concerned about your own health?


Yes and no. I am generally pretty healthy person. I don't really have any preexisting health conditions that put me at a greater risk. So, I'm very fortunate in that way. And I don't have children yet. So, I didn't have that stress that so many families and parents have still and I, for me, it was more of like I need to sleep enough, and I need to be able to continue exercising. 00:50:00Because for me, the exercise is like the tension release for everything. It's, I'm very irritable if I'm not exercising somehow. And I do need to sleep every night a lot.

GL: Were you know, were there things during the, you know, the early days through, even through now, you know that kept, were there issues that kept you awake?

JK: Every night. I actually, my partner told me once that I was sleep talking, I was I was talking about quarantine in my sleep. I mean, there's so the other thing, Grace is that I wasn't fully separated from my other job, either. So, I, 00:51:00I didn't have to do a lot of stuff I had Gabby Schwartz was really supporting me in that way and taking on a lot of the work, especially working with my students. But I was still doing victim survivor advocacy. I still met with students who were experiencing trauma. And that was harder to me than the COVID response. Because it was just it, it was emotional in a way that, for me, COVID wasn't yet so emotional. I mean, it's gotten to be COVID response has been an emotional burden. It's developed into that more, but at the time, in the 00:52:00beginning, it wasn't that. So, it was actually for me, like mentally and emotionally dealing with COVID response was easier than my real job.

GL: Are you still doing that with the victim survivor advocacy?

JK: No.

GL: When do you stop doing that?

JK: This past summer.

GL: Okay. So, you were doing it for, I guess, both jobs for a year?

JK: Pretty much. I wasn't doing as much of that throughout the 2019 or 2020-21 academic year. But I was still doing that. And I was I had a few students that I was working with pretty consistently. So.

GL: We talked about, we touched on your challenges in your role as the COVID 00:53:00response leader. Can you think of other challenges that you faced?


Yeah, I think in the fall of 2020, especially every day was a fight. It felt like a battle every day, whether it was with the issues coming up with our positive cases, or their roommates or their parents, or issues coming up in EOC. And arguments that we would have a conflict and it was all I would say, very productive conflict. It was we needed to have that conflict in order to come to the best consensus and the best solution. Or maybe it wasn't always the best 00:54:00solution, but it was good enough to help majority of people

GL: Can, you know, share some of the conflicts?

JK: So early on, we had an issue with the isolation housing. So, Webster Hall, was completely full at one point, and then we were doing overflow housing into GCC. And one of the issues was that there was nobody there in Webster to assist students. There were things cut, there was trash everywhere, there was just like 00:55:00they would people would bring and drop off food and then rooms would get cleaned eventually, but we would have, nobody wanted to be there. Nobody wanted to work in that building. But these are students who were sometimes really sick. And they needed to have to be able to call somebody or go to you know, have somebody available to help them if there was an emergency. But nobody wanted to be in that building. And once it got full of students, that's when I think everybody realized this wasn't working. Because it was kind of a free for all. There were no, you know, no one supervising. There are no CA's, no res hall director. There was nobody there. It was just a building where we put all the sick kids. And 00:56:00that was that was a problem.

GL: How long? Webster Hall was the quarantine dorm for how long?

JK: I think it we phased it out by middle to end of October of 2020. I think that's.

GL: How many how many beds do they have?

JK: I don't have the numbers offhand.

GL: I can do that later. Yeah. And then you moved it to?


GL: Was horizon ever?

JK: No.

GL: Okay.

JK: I think they wanted to keep that for students who wanted were willing to pay for horizon.


So that's okay. That's one of the challenges. I mean, can you think of another example.


JK: Another example was students who were sick, who weren't getting tested, but then we'd have reports from their roommates, that they were sick and not getting tested. And so those were issues that we had to escalate to the Dean of Students Office pretty consistently. We had parents calling our disease investigators and calling our hotline and being really angry about how things were being handled. At times I, I can't think of a specific story right now. I feel like I need to go through some of my other notes and find some of these really specific stories, because there are a lot of them every day.


GL: How were you able to, well, I guess I'm thinking this is not something that you signed up for? Well, in a sense, right.

JK: I didn't know. Yeah, I didn't know what I was signing up for.

GL: How were you able to keep up your sense of optimism that there had been any? Seriously, I mean, I would just be curled up in the fetal position, you know.

JK: I think I had a really strong sense of purpose in this work, and in knowing it was making a difference. That we were able to communicate quickly, with students who tested positive, calmed them down, get them set up in a safer 00:59:00situation for them and others and put them more at ease eventually. And make sure that they got connected with the academic resources that they needed, so that they could stay in school, and they could keep up. And ultimately, I know I've, you know, we don't get a lot of thank yous from students. But when we do, I share them out pretty widely with our, our team and those stories make a difference. Or like, recently, we had a student who's a non-trad or nontraditional student who was very ill. And after speaking with them, we found 01:00:00out, their mother had just passed away and a sibling had just passed away from COVID. And now they were very sick, and they were too sick to go to one of those go to their sibling's funeral. And so, we were making connections with students and like getting them more connected to resources on campus or in the community. And they may never have gotten those connections, if we hadn't called them directly and said, how are you doing?

GL: Do you have an idea if the student is okay?

JK: I think so. I think they are actually doing all right now.

GL: This falls into the, you know, one of the questions I had about what, what 01:01:00are you most proud of about your COVID response with yours and your team's COVID response?

JK: So, we started with our disease investigation team, there were five of us initially, who were trained by the county as disease investigators. And that was, at the very end of August, beginning of September, we only had five people. The very beginning. And we were able to ramp that up very quickly. I recruited athletic coaches, and head coaches, system coaches, other staff from athletics. They were really great. They were so great to work with. And our ability to ramp things up very quickly, when we realized we needed more. And to change our 01:02:00process very quickly, that is something that I'm really proud that this team has been able to accomplish. And specifically, not just overall EOC, but very specifically to that disease investigation, the public health team, because we were in daily meetings with the County Health Department. So, my Jordan Mooney and Carmen Hetzel, they would go to daily meetings with the county to make sure that we were staying updated on all of the public health guidance.

GL: Other than you, Carmen and Jordan, who are the other two disease investigators?

JK: Jennifer Zuberbier. She was the athletic trainer. And then Shannon Meeks who 01:03:00is, she was worked with us for the one semester.

GL: But it's but you, Carmen and Jordan were the?

JK: Yeah.

GL: Okay. I just want to make sure obviously, your job did change because of COVID. Are you staying in this capacity? Until further notice?

JK: I think so.

GL: How happy were you that, hold on that's a leading question. When the vaccines finally came readily available, what were your initial thoughts?

JK: Relief. I thought this is going to be over soon.

GL: And then.


JK: It wasn't. Then it wasn't.

GL: How when that realization hit, you know what, what went through your mind when you realize it's not going to be over soon?

JK: There's a lot of ways that I've approached things differently this time around, that I didn't in 2020 because we have the tools, and we know how to beat this and yet there is still so much resistance to it. And I think knowing that, like this past summer, summer of 21. When I was asked to put a DI team back 01:05:00together for this year I thought, oh gosh, here we go again. And how is this even going to be possible when everyone is trying to do things the way they used to do them. So, when people are trying to get back to normal, this has been a lot harder, actually, it was, was almost easier and 2020 when we didn't know what we were doing. But at least you know, nobody really knew what the best things were to do. And, and we weren't trying to act like things were normal. We weren't trying to do things as normally on campus as possible. Or in the rest of 01:06:00our lives. We accepted the fact that we had to do things differently. And we had to change sometimes day to day, but definitely week to week, we were adjusting our processes and like being okay with saying, yeah, I made a decision last week, that now is no longer the correct decision. Because we have new information. And that is I think that's another thing I'm really proud of is knowing that we have the humility to do that.

GL: Somebody who has a background in public health, and you're you know in public health education and everything. I mean, how frustrating was it for you? You seem very calm. I mean, are you ever frustrated about this about the state 01:07:00of affairs and society and the community?

JK: Yeah, I mean, every day, every day, I am very frustrated. And I think it's more of the specific situations that I come across that really make me angry. Like having a positive employee in a childcare setting, who is not vaccinated, won't get vaccinated, goes to work sick for three days in a row is in, you know, working with three-year-olds, four-year-olds, two-year-old infants, kids who can't get vaccinated. Yeah, and can't mask either. Really, I mean, maybe a 01:08:00four-year-old but younger than that, it's just they don't do very well. And so, I have those situations that come up almost every day. And those are the things that really make me angry, because it's not because its people are knowingly putting others at risk.

GL: You said that you like I mean, you need to exercise for your own health, mental health maybe? What do you do?

JK: I run and bike.

GL: And you had to adjust your own life during the early days of COVID. You said you got married in August of 2020, was that your original date? And then.

JK: Mhm. August first.

GL: And then you were also part of this team that was trying to get the 01:09:00University back in person as safe as possible. How were you able to manage those roles?

JK: Well, when it was coming up to my wedding day, I said Hey, everyone, I'm gonna be off for a couple days. Gonna be like okay, well, we got to make sure we get these things done next week. But so okay, I gotta go get married first and then I'll then I'll be back at work that's kind of how it went with that.

GL: Obviously, I mean, I don't know did you really only take a couple days off?

JK: Mhm.

GL: So, wow.


JK: Like maybe a week total, maybe like a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and then the following week, a couple of days.

GL: Well belated, congratulations.

JK: Thank you.

GL: And I'm gonna ask you this, again, the, you know, there are people who are, are still working remotely, are you? Are you back in person?

JK: Yes and no. I am mostly working remotely for my COVID response role. Because I really only need my phone and my laptop. But for my health promotion role, I don't have the same assistance that I had previously in 2020. For that work, so I do come in, when I need to work with my student staff, or make sure that you 01:11:00know, they have the supplies and the resources that they or do training, things like that. So, I come in usually a couple afternoons a week to work with them.

GL: And what has living and working in the time COVID taught you about yourself?

JK: That I don't, I can have a plan. And that's great. But I always need to be thinking about Plan B. And I always sort of did think that way. But that's in 01:12:00terms of myself in my own life. But I think what's been most profound, to me over the past couple years, is learning how much others are struggling. And not in ways that you even would expect, or people who seem really strong and they seem like they have it all together, they have life figured out things are all good, they're still struggling in ways that you wouldn't even expect. And so, every interaction that I have with other people, I always anticipate that there's more beneath what's going on or whatever they're presenting externally isn't the full picture what's going on. And so, I think COVID and my roll with 01:13:00it, and in working so directly with the people who are who are ill, who are losing family members and friends, who are living with people who are vulnerable. And hearing the struggles, I just it's hard to take anything at face value anymore.

GL: I gotta go back, several steps back. Do you have your handle on how many, how many students, do we, I mean, do you divide up with students and faculty or staff or, you know, on how many cases that we actually how many people we tested? And the numbers of positive cases and any of that stuff during that 01:14:00timeframe I'm talking about now, like through December 2021.

JK: Through December 21?

GL: Yeah. Do you have the total number like that?

JK: So, for the.

GL: You know like. Oh, sorry.

JK: For the 2020-21 academic year, we have about 1600 positive cases of both students and employees that we contacted individually. And another so that's through spring of 21. I have other numbers for, so we have about another 1200 close contacts that were that we reached out to individually. And that wouldn't 01:15:00include necessarily, because sometimes we would have, we would have a positive student living in an off-campus house. And they had four roommates. And so, we'd say we'd call one of them. And we'd say, okay, you're all here, put me on speakerphone. I'm going to give you all instructions. And so, we don't necessarily have every single one of them documented, but at least that many calls through for the fall of 21. It was about or do you want up to now?

GL: Fall, fall 2021?

JK: About 600 positive cases.


GL: So, you know, our, the way the university responded to COVID, had attracted some media attention positive media attention from and then also from the Surgeon General, the former governor, Tom Thompson. Why? Why would he think that we were or, showcases as a positive highlight of how a university can respond for what do we do differently do you think?

JK: I think we built systems that other universities didn't, we rebuilt the public health process on our campus in a way that worked for the resources and the needs that we had. And that was one of the biggest differences. And so many 01:17:00campuses put their health center directors in charge of all of this stuff. And I have nothing against health care providers, I you know, they're very important. But they often take a more individual approach to dealing with the situations. So, they want to say, well, best practice is doing this, where it's like, your best practice is doing a PCR test, because that's the most accurate test. But when a PCR test takes three to five days, for results to come back, those people are not getting the people who got the test, they don't know what their result is. And they're just going out about their normal business without knowing that 01:18:00they're positive for that amount of time. And so, then they're spreading it everywhere they go. Whereas, and so that might be best practice doing a PCR test, because it's the most accurate. But what we needed to do was something that was focused more on a population level approach. And that's what public health does. And so, while so many other schools, we're taking a more individualized clinical health provider type approach to their pandemic response on campus, we figured out what's going to do what's going to be good for the most people. It's not going to be perfect. But it's going to help us manage things on a population level better. So, using those rapid antigen tests, there 01:19:00weren't many schools using those tests. I don't think any schools in the UW system started out their semester in the fall of 2020, using rapid antigen tests. But when we did that, and so we knew immediately when people were positive, and we could isolate them immediately, rather than having them continue to spread the virus to everybody in the res halls during that time. And so, it wasn't a perfect test. It's not going to pick up every single positive but it's going to pick up more in a shorter time period than those PCR tests.

GL: Do you mind my asking you how old were you when the pandemic hit?

JK: 31. Wait 30.

GL: We're talking March 2020?


JK: I think 30. Yeah, I was 30.

GL: Okay, no, I just wanted to make a note of it for the when you're saying that your name was next to all the other, you know, on the on the organizational chart, but the other night with the Vice Chancellor make it all comparison here. So, we touched on a lot of things. Was there anything else you'd like to add that we haven't talked about?

JK: Oh, I'll probably think of things later on. But right now, it's just it's a lot and I don't think so.

GL: I think I mean; I can get those numbers from you later.

JK: Okay.

GL: But well, yeah. Well, thank you for you sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contributions to Campus COVID Stories at UW Oshkosh.