Today a group of infectious disease experts and tech entrepreneurs unveiled a solution for one piece of a gigantic pandemic puzzle: how to provide clear, specific COVID-19 guidance and resources for off-campus student housing authorities who are welcoming back students this month. This idea was the brainchild of two Denver-based firms: Better Efficiency Solutions & Technologies LLC (BEST), a company that specializes in on- and off-campus housing technology and solutions, and The COVID ConsultantsSM, a group of healthcare professionals led by infectious disease specialists Dr. John Hammer and Dr. Dana Lerman.
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Their solution, COVIDefenderTM Student Housing Portal, launches nationwide Friday.
“We saw a critical need to help facilitate a responsible return to colleges and universities in the midst of a global pandemic and address some of the uncertainties people have about moving back to school in these uncertain times,” said Lerman, medical director at The COVID ConsultantsSM.
While she never would have imagined spearheading an effort to look after the health and well-being of more than 20 million students, faculty and staff this fall, Lerman knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime – and one she couldn’t refuse.
“College is supposed to be a place for novel experiences, cultivating relationships and academic growth,” Lerman said. “COVID-19 has drastically altered this highly anticipated chapter of life, and young people need structure and consistent reassurance, especially in the midst of so much upheaval and change. Student Housing owners and operators have the responsibility to provide clear guidelines that students and management can comfortably and responsibly follow.”
She added that, should there be a COVID-19 event, everyone should know how to respond so that no one panics and everything is done according to an established incident protocol. The importance of this wasn’t lost on Lerman’s counterpart at BEST, either.
“There’s a lot of confusion about how colleges and universities are going to open this fall, and it’s causing anxiety for students and their families. Nobody’s ever had to imagine trying to learn under such circumstances,” said BEST Vice President Howard Cleaver. “We wanted to help, and we realized we could leverage our extensive knowledge and relationships in the student housing industry to deliver a really unique service with The COVID ConsultantsSM.”
Cleaver added that he’s spoken with several student housing asset managers who have expressed concerns about liability. He said adopting COVIDefenderTM demonstrates they are taking appropriate action to responsibly operate in an unprecedented environment.
COVIDefenderTM is the newest offshoot of an existing nationwide subscription service that provides COVID-19 guidance and resources for businesses including housing and assisted living facilities for the country’s aging and most vulnerable populations.
“Recently we helped an assisted living facility develop a comprehensive plan for their community. We met with staff, who gave us a tour and discussed their challenges and concerns around keeping their residents healthy.,” Lerman said. “We answered specific questions they had for their particular community and created a strategy and guidelines for them.”
“The COVID ConsultantsSM were instrumental in helping us navigate COVID risk mitigation in our senior living communities. We followed their guidance and haven’t had any COVID cases to date,” said Adam Kaplan, Founder and CEO of Solera Senior Living, which has communities nationwide.
When COVIDefenderTM launches Friday, community staff and student tenants will be able to log on and order at-home COVID-19 PCR (“spit”) test kits; ask questions and read regularly updated FAQs; find printable checklists and signage, among other products; and learn ways to better leverage existing resources or develop easy-to-understand guidelines and protocols.
Community managers will have access to digital marketing materials to use in their communications with current and prospective tenants, which will help them demonstrate that they have engaged with The COVID ConsultantsSM and are educated on the most effective protocols, Lerman said.
She added that the protocol and recommendations that The COVID ConsultantsSM provide will change as they learn more about this novel coronavirus and its devastating impact, so service subscribers will get regular updates as best practices and agency guidelines change.
“This is not a wave issue,” Lerman said. “It’s a roller coaster, and this ride is not over anytime soon. My partners and I talk about this reality all the time. I would love for there to not be a need for our services. But the chance to provide them is truly the opportunity of a lifetime for me – to make a real difference in lives.”