Spring COVID-19 testing aims to distribute work more evenly

COVID-19 testing will resume at Johnny's lounge on the east side of Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 11, with a focus on spreading the workload more evenly across the university. 

Testing support staff, many from targeted departments, will fill three roles during the spring semester -- testing site staff, contact tracers and case investigators.

"We approached the fall with more of a sign-up mentality," said senior human resources partner Craig Hamerlinck, who is coordinating the staffing plan. "This spring, it is more structured with set schedules. We learned from the fall and are making data-driven decisions for our staffing needs in the spring."   

Covering the various roles focuses on assigning staff consistent hours.

"Our success in the fall came from having staff that were consistent for the duration of the semester," Hamerlinck said. "We want consistent staff that are working a consistent schedule. That way they get really efficient and competent at their work."

Statisticians are analyzing data from the fall to forecast when potential rises in coronavirus cases may occur to allow for proper staffing and scheduling, Hamerlinck said.

Testing site

Support staff have a variety of roles at Johnny's, including appointment setup, line managers to greet patients and checking in patients at the registration desk. In the fall, those responsibilities were handled primarily by finance service delivery teams.

"They really stepped up in a time of need at the university," Hamerlinck said.

Printing Services employees will take over the bulk of the staffing responsibilities at the testing site this spring. Support staff will continue to perform their normal work in addition to their efforts at the testing site.

"With the spring, we are trying to bring in people to relieve the staff who had committed so much in the fall so they can return to their jobs and take care of their needs," Hamerlinck said. "Some areas are affected by COVID more than others. Areas like study abroad programs and conference planning and management were able to provide support staff." 

Identifying departments that are less taxed by the pandemic and working with their leaders helped fill positions. Supervisor approval is required to ensure workloads are managed. In some cases, someone moving into a testing site rotation has their "home" work picked up by a coworker in their department.

Testing center hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday; and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The site also assists with testing for athletes and may adjust hours to accommodate them.

Associate vice president for finance and support services Heather Paris served as the testing site manager during the fall. Recreation services director Mike Giles and study abroad advisor Peter Cruz will act as co-managers this spring.

"They did an amazing job throughout the entire fall semester," Hamerlinck said. "It is my understanding that no one contracted COVID-19 from working at the test site in the fall."

Tracers and investigators

Just before the winter holiday break, university senior leaders assisted with the effort to piece together the necessary hours to fill seven days a week for contact tracers and case investigators.

"President [Wendy] Wintersteen and the senior vice presidents sent a message to their faculty and staff to express how important this was," Hamerlinck said. "It went smoothly over really a matter of days if you take out the holiday break."

Hamerlinck said support staff come from across campus, some taking time away from full-time jobs while others are picking up hours lost because of the pandemic.

As a result, Hamerlinck expects to have base staffing needs filled this week. The individuals conducting contact tracing or case investigations work remotely -- from their homes or offices -- to limit large gatherings of people.


All testing site support staff go through basic training before they begin working. Training includes an online contact tracing course through Johns Hopkins University that addresses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and in-person training. Training for those at the testing site teaches staff how to use the Iowa State registration programs.

"The staff that did this work in the fall are available to support the spring staff to ease the transition," Hamerlinck said. "Everyone will have gone through the basic training before they begin, but the actual experience of doing the work is where the training continues."

Some of the fall support staff will continue in their roles this spring and will assist new support staff as needed.