A program that has been in place at Taylor longer than the current junior class has finally come to an end. On Nov. 1, Taylor students received the last update from the Taylor Pandemic Response Team (PeRT) announcing Taylor’s altered approach to COVID-19.
Ron Sutherland, who has been chair of the board since its inception in April 2020, said the COVID threat is no longer a pandemic emergency but an endemic issue that Taylor will handle like any other virus.
This does not mean Taylor is denying the existence of COVID. Sutherland says he is still keeping track of COVID cases in Grant County and on Taylor’s campus.
When it was created, PeRT held a lot of responsibility as Taylor worked to reopen for students in the fall of 2020. One of their jobs was reviewing the plans of all the departments to make sure they would follow COVID protocol.
Because of the impact some PeRT policies had, like those dealing with mask-wearing, they involved students in some of their decision-making processes. However, as the threat of COVID diminished and more guidelines were lowered, the PeRT team and those helping them grew smaller.
PeRT also dealt with aspects of quarantine and isolation, which are no longer big factors. In the current situation, Taylor has decided to treat COVID like the flu. They will not make students isolate, but if there is a surge in cases or a new strain, some policies may have to go back into place.
“The last email I sent to the PERT team was: thanks for your service. It's been great, I've really admired you,” Sutherland said. “And really small print: PS, we had the opportunity to call you back into service.”
Sutherland acknowledged that there are some members of the community who may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others, and noted that medical practitioners should continue to be seen as the experts in individual treatment.
With the shrinking of COVID numbers, the closure of PeRT wasn’t far behind.
“All along, we had set sort of a two month deadline,” Chris Jones, chief information officer at Taylor and member of the PeRT cabinet, said. “So when we got to near the end of October that we would reevaluate and if everything was kind of status quo, we would look to sort of wrap things up.”