On Oct. 6, the University’s Public Health Team identified an emerging cluster of positive COVID-19 cases on campus. Testing revealed more than 60 new cases over the next four days. After consulting with the Onondaga County Health Department, the University determined that aggressive action was needed. This new threat demanded enhanced surveillance testing. “We needed a lot of help and support,” says Pruthvi Kilaru, program manager in the Department of Public Health in the Falk College. Volunteers were needed to swab and log samples at the stadium on a mass scale. The Public Health Team also needed assistance in the lab to pool samples before they were sent to the lab.

The University’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) answered the call. Led by political science and Middle Eastern studies major Zach Baxter ’21, since Oct. 7 a total of 43 cadets have logged 175 volunteer hours and facilitated an estimated 6000 tests. “Zach has been an integral part in getting people signed up and getting us staffed. They have really been amazing,” says Kilaru.

Baxter had volunteered earlier in the semester with the Public Health Team and approached Kilaru to ask if there were more opportunities to offer support. “Zach gave me a call around 6 p.m. and by the next day had an entire detail set up,” says Kilaru. “And since then we’ve heavily relied on ROTC cadets helping us out.”

“It started out with just myself and a small group of my team members,” says Baxter. “But once that cluster hit, we realized that we needed to bring in the entire battalion.”

Army ROTC’s Stalwart Battalion Commander LTC Jennifer Gotie says Baxter has hands-on experience that makes him an invaluable resource. “Based on Cadet Baxter’s extensive experience with safety protocols, he is the right leader to effectively manage our volunteers. He works part-time for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office jail when he’s home from school, so this level of critical support falls well within his wheelhouse,” says Gotie.

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