The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at Texas A&M University-Commerce has played an integral part in formulating the university's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and when the EOC needed to track news and trends surrounding the outbreak, they asked Dr. Brian McGinley to come up with a solution.
“They needed someone keeping up with the headlines so they could stay focused on the university's response,” said McGinley, who serves as associate director of Procurement Services and contracting officer for A&M-Commerce. “I said I'd love to help.”
After experimenting with a few methods, McGinley and the team eventually settled on a running spreadsheet to store all of the news stories in one location. When the time came to work from home, he transitioned to a live, online database.
On the spreadsheet, the headlines are categorized by date, time and news source, with a summary of each news story included. The spreadsheet allows viewers to make informed operational decisions by following the progression of news related to COVID-19 in real time.
McGinley maintains the database along with A&M-Commerce staff members Katie Thomas and Matt Bentley. Together, the team works in shifts throughout the day to keep the database updated with the latest news.
The Emergency Operations Center monitors the COVID-19 news database from a dedicated display screen in the EOC office. In March and April, the team watched as states gradually began shutting down as the virus spread. By tracking national, state and local headlines in real time, they observed what other schools were experiencing, and they used that data to predict trends and determine how best to keep A&M-Commerce students, faculty and staff safe.
When other agencies asked EOC Incident Commander Derek Preas how A&M-Commerce was tracking news about the pandemic, he told them about the spreadsheet and shared the link.
The database is now being utilized by several Texas agencies including the Disaster District Committee, Region 1 of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and The Texas A&M University System. Several deans at A&M-Commerce are also using the database to keep their teams up to date.
With an average of 37-40 entries per day, the database has now logged over 2,000 entries since March 17, 2020. McGinley says 10-15 viewers are logged into the database at any given time.
As the state of Texas begins opening the economy for business, the EOC continues to monitor the database to help make informed decisions in response to the pandemic.
McGinley says he's just happy to be part of a team effort. “It's really just another spoke in the wheel for ensuring that the university is making the best decisions with all of the information that is available,” McGinley said.
View the database.