LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 2, 2021) — During the spring of last year, a series of unprecedented transitions were underway at the University of Kentucky.
UK HealthCare was treating the first patient in Kentucky who tested positive for COVID-19. Faculty and staff quickly moved every class to a remote learning format. Athletic events came to a grinding halt as teams discussed whether to cancel or postpone entire seasons.
And that was just the beginning.
For many, this time one year ago marks the anniversary of the realization that life as they knew it was being fundamentally altered.
Reimagining a “new normal” for an entire campus community and beyond was a daunting task. But together, the UK family has risen to the challenge — exemplifying what’s truly possible in the face of adversity.
But how do we measure the breadth and depth of these efforts?
We attempt to do so with numbers.
Vaccines: UK Administers More Than 170,000 Shots of Hope
The UK vaccination clinic has marked a monumental milestone in the fight against the virus — administering 180,000+ COVID-19 vaccines to citizens across the Commonwealth, including front-line health care workers, first responders, teachers, school personnel and people over age 70.
In January, the university pledged to do more and be more for the people of the state when it opened the Kroger Field location. Now, it’s currently the largest clinic in the region — serving 20,000+ Kentuckians per week.
In March, the clinic underwent yet another expansion, allowing UK to often vaccinate more than 4,000 people each day.
“Each vaccine we give moves us closer to our ‘normal lives,’ with kids back in schools, religious services occurring in person and individuals safely attending birthday parties and athletic events,” Dr. Ashley A. Montgomery-Yates, with UK HealthCare, said. “Every Kentuckian we vaccinate means one more person who won't end up in the hospital, on a ventilator or worse. Each shot given is one step closer to the end of this pandemic.”
Volunteers: The Imperative Work They Do
Statistics don't always stir emotions, but the people behind the numbers do.
Vaccination clinics are massive public health undertakings, which require many helping hands. On any given day, approximately 120 staff members and volunteers go to work at Kroger Field — serving in roles from immunizers to wayfinders.
Volunteers from UK, including employees from UK HealthCare, UK Athletics, emergency operations, Health Corps and public relations and marketing, as well as hundreds of volunteer students, faculty and staff, have joined forces to help the community meet this unprecedented challenge.
In addition to groups from the College of Medicine, volunteers from the College of Pharmacy, College of Dentistry, College of Health Sciences and College of Nursing have volunteered as immunizers at the clinic. In addition to running the clinic, employees with UK HealthCare Pharmacy Services are also volunteering their time.
“Kroger Field is at the center of Kentucky’s battle against COVID-19 — we’re putting more shots into more arms than any other clinic in the state,” Lance Poston, assistant vice president for student success, said. “Without a doubt, what truly holds the clinic together and propels it forward is the tireless efforts of our volunteers.”
COVID-19 Testing: Protecting the Campus Community and Beyond
Before there was a vaccine clinic to manage, there was continuous COVID-19 testing.
Tucked away on the sixth floor of the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital, UK HealthCare’s clinical microbiology lab is home to one of the most important factors in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic — patient testing.
On March 6, Kentucky and UK HealthCare marked one year since the first patient tested positive for COVID-19.
Since last spring, the lab has been administering COVID-19 tests to UK HealthCare patients thanks to multiple collaborations across the hospital system. To date, they have conducted more than 113,000 COVID-19 tests.
Additionally, UK has strived to protect the campus community through ongoing student testing, which remains available at no cost through a third-party expert — Lexington-based testing and genomics company, Wild Health.
Utilizing a third party for testing has allowed UK HealthCare to maintain its capacity for testing health workers, first responders and the community.
Between University Health Services and Wild Health, the university has conducted approximately 66,394 COVID-19 tests for students.
"Regular testing has been a key tool we have used to manage the spread of this virus on campus,” Poston said. “We applaud all of our students and employees who have tested and continue to participate in testing, helping us make sure that we are creating a safe and healthy residential college experience for thousands of Wildcats."
UK Health Corps: Keeping Our Campus Healthy and Safe
On any given day, UK Health Corps is made up of approximately 60 dedicated staff members working to keep our campus healthy and safe managing everything from contact tracing and academic coordination to transportation and communications.
Since July 2020, Health Corps has replied to more than 5,000 emails and managed 25,000+ phone calls.
To date, the Wellness Support Connectors have completed more than 17,000 resource tasks for students, faculty and staff affected by COVID-19. These tasks range from a simple check-in calls to a prescription delivery.
“The work the entire Health Corps team is doing is nothing short of remarkable,” Hannah Simms, associate project manager with Health Corps, said. “It’s amazing to think that in one year this team has built a modern public health infrastructure that has allowed our campus community to find a path forward in a challenging time.”
For more information on UK’s COVID-19 response, such as details on testing and vaccines, you can visit our website.
As the University of Kentucky commemorates one year of battling COVID-19, we’re reminded of our promise to the Commonwealth and each other. Every corner of our campus — from UK HealthCare to Athletics, from our Emergency Operations Center to volunteers in our health colleges and across this university — has united for a common purpose. And, when members of our community come together with the heart to step up, there is almost no challenge too large, no obstacle too daunting, to overcome. Because of this community – its resilience, compassion and expertise – we have experienced, even in the face of a global pandemic, what is wildly possible.