TSU using technology, innovative incentives to curb coronavirus spread among students and staff


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – College campuses across the country are using creative ways to battle the latest surge of the coronavirus. At Tennessee State University – with one of the lowest number of cases among Tennessee colleges – officials are using technology and offering incentives to students to help curb the spread of the virus among the campus population. 

Healthcare personnel say students are proactive and anxious about coming into the health center to register to be tested for the coronavirus. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

The university has stepped up its rapid testing, encourages students to do more contact tracing using a new software, and has set up electronic temperature checks around campus. Tigers Mask Up, an initiative that offers students discount cash coupons for observing proper protocols, has also been introduced. Additionally, the university encourages free discussion of the virus among students and staff. 

“It is not a taboo to talk about cases and persons who are experiencing symptoms. The open discussion helps,” says Dr. Curtis Johnson, chief of staff and head of the TSU Coronavirus Pandemic task force. 

He says the Tigers Mask Up initiative, introduced by the task force, is intended to recognize the efforts of students who go the “extra mile” to ensure compliance. 

TSU introduces a mobile app for contact tracing among the campus population.

“The task force monitors what’s going on and makes recommendations to modify activities when necessary or initiate efforts to move us ahead, and so far, our efforts are paying off,” Johnson says. 

A New York Times survey of more than 1,700 colleges and universities shows more than 214,000 cases and 75 deaths (mostly college employees) since the pandemic began, with Tennessee colleges accounting for 6,540 of those cases.  Since TSU reopened for the fall with hybrid learning, the university has reported less than 75 cases, with mostly mild to no symptoms and no hospitalization. 

Johnson and others attribute TSU’s low number to the university’s vigilance with testing and students’ overall cooperation with protocols put in place to keep them safe. The TSU Student Health Center is averaging between 50-100 students who come in per day to be tested. 

Tigers Mask Up initiative recognize the efforts of students who go the “extra mile” to ensure compliance. 

Dana Humphrey, head nurse of the Student Health Center, says testing is going very well and students are very open to coming in to get tested. 

“The kids are really engaged and trying to come and get tested,” she says. “They are proactive and really anxious about follow-ups and making sure they are healthy.” 

Frequent testing is widely encouraged among the student population. In fact, the Aristocrat of Bands, and all sports program on campus have made testing mandatory for their members. Band members are required to test once a week if they live on campus, and twice a week i