Alabama State University has managed to keep COVID-19 cases at zero since the start of the fall semester, even as the number of infections rises among college students at other campuses across the U.S. The university's president, Quinton Ross, Jr, in part, credits Dragonfly's thermal-screening technology that identifies coronavirus symptoms.
"This is a contactless device that we're using. We're non-invasive, where students can just walk up and get a quick check of their temperature and other vital signs," he told Cheddar. "It's been an asset to all of the protocols that we've set in place here to help identify and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus."
Even before the technology was implemented at the historically Black university, steps were already being taken to protect the safety and health of everyone on campus.
"From the outset, we determined — even before the city of Montgomery, even before the state of Alabama — that we would become a mask-mandatory campus," he said.
For Ross, safety, especially for students, was the sole priority in taking steps to reopen campus. While a lack of PPE was a major concern for many early in the pandemic, the university was committed to avoiding "any barrier" that could potentially keep students from learning on campus. Therefore, the school decided to provide masks for them, he said.
Once back on campus, Ross explained, students have even stepped up and are doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“I cannot say enough about my student leadership, who’s embraced keeping our campus safe,” he noted.
In the event of an outbreak, Ross said there is a contingency plan in place that includes isolating students in already established dormitories.
A common criticism of universities' reopening plans during the pandemic has been that restrictions prevent students from socializing — a notable aspect of the on-campus college experience. It is also a scenario that, in many cases, is unavoidable; but Ross said the protocols and safety standards that were set, along with the students' ability to be mindful, are the reasons for his school's success in keeping infections at zero so far.
"I'm just thankful to our Board of Trustees and all of our leadership team for allowing us to put these procedures in place," he said.