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COVID-19 Update: DU’s Daily Response Network

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Jeremy Haefner

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Notice: This article was updated on Sept. 1, 2020 to reflect changes to the response network.

Dear DU Community,

Last week I shared Creating a Community of Care: An Action Plan for DU’s Fall Return to Campus. Our plan outlines the policies and procedures we all must follow to ensure our community’s health and safety so we can enjoy living, working and learning on our beautiful campus—even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To be successful, we must closely monitor any potential spread of the Coronavirus within our community, and decision-makers must communicate clearly, quickly and effectively. This will require a COVID-19 response network empowered to act quickly and decisively each day as new information or challenges related to the pandemic arise.

Today, I am announcing the University of Denver COVID-19 response network, which is comprised of four parts:

  • A dedicated coordinator
  • Senior leadership team
  • University Response team
  • Health partner liaison team

This network is the natural evolution of the COVID-19 task forces, working groups, and emergency operations committee, whose members have been working tirelessly since the pandemic’s arrival this past spring to answer how the University would respond to the virus. Building on that work, this newly formed response network answers who will carry out that response as we move into a safe and healthy return to campus for the fall.

Over the weekend, we will be consulting with National Jewish Health (NJH) as well as campus leaders to finalize our quarantine and return to campus protocols. I will send an announcement detailing those protocols on Monday.

We have created a new, essential position: the COVID response coordinator, held by Sarah Watamura, a DU psychology professor. Sarah has been instrumental in helping us build our action plan. Sarah will be fully dedicated to DU’s response to COVID-19. As coordinator, Sarah will chair the COVID-19 Response Team (CRT). The coordinator will elevate information to and advise senior leadership on decision-making.

The COVID-19 Senior Leadership team—comprised of myself, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Clark, Senior Vice Chancellor for Business and Financial Affairs Leslie Brunelli, and Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief of Staff Nancy Nicely—will meet daily with both COVID response coordinators. We will review the latest information and recommendations from the rest of the response network and will be responsible for communications with the campus community.

Guided by the policies and procedures established by our COVID-19 task forces and working groups, the response team is charged with quickly reacting to reported positive cases of COVID-19 at DU.

The CRT will coordinate our response to positive tests or outbreaks and quickly make recommendations to leadership based on the most current science and information. They will implement current policies and procedures as well as create new processes when gaps are identified. They will manage our most powerful mitigation tactics, including contact tracing and symptom monitoring, and they will report findings as required to the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. If a DU community member is deemed at a higher-than-minimal risk of exposure, a member of the CRT will notify them. If a building needs disinfection or closure, that recommendation will be routed to leadership through the CRT. Notably, this group will prioritize privacy, making sure all personal information about DU community members remains highly confidential.


COVID Response Coordinator | Sarah Watamura, professor, psychology
Chairs the CRT and take its recommendations to the COVID Response Leadership Team.

Team Members

State Deputized Reporter | Christopher Short, director, environmental health & safety
Leads DU’s contact tracing and regulatory response

Medical expert | Michael LaFarr, executive director, Health and Counseling Center
Consults with individuals in the community when they may have an increased risk of exposure

Facilities expert | James Rosner, associate vice chancellor, facilities planning & management
Leads building disinfection, closure and modifications

Student affairs representative | Niki Latino, interim vice chancellor, student affairs
Leads student quarantine and isolation

Human resources representative | Jerron Lowe, interim vice chancellor, human resources
Leads employee accommodation and interaction


As I shared in my letter to the community on July 15, DU has selected NJH—the number one-ranked respiratory hospital in the U.S.—as our strategic health partner. NJH will provide information and guidance on our strategy and execution in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic specifically related to testing, contact tracing and the development of quarantine protocols.

To fully leverage this partnership, we have established a liaison team. Several key faculty and staff will facilitate the sharing of information between DU and NJH. They will work with NJH to prioritize steps and decisions so we can meet the community’s most urgent needs. And they will communicate NJH’s guidance to our full COVID-19 response network and bring forward recommendations to leadership.

Team members

Eric Chess, director, financial security & cognitive decline initiative, Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging
Andrei Kutateladzedean, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics
Gregg Kvistadprovost emeritus
Michael LaFarrexecutive director, Health and Counseling Center
David Odellmedical director, Health and Counseling Center
Karen Rileydean, Morgridge College of Education
Chris Shortdirector, environmental health & safety
Sarah WatamuraCOVID-19 response coordinator and professor, psychology

Mitigation of the virus’s spread will require dedication and vigilance. Through the creation of our Covid-19 response network, we are formalizing roles and responsibilities, and making our processes as efficient and effective as possible. I am grateful to those who have chosen to serve in these roles in addition to their normal responsibilities.

Thank you all.


Jeremy Haefner