COVID-19 Testing savety monitor watching each swab to ensure no contamination

UW-Green Bay graduate student helps build COVID-19 drive-thru testing facility for rural Kentucky

Jennie Morehead says she uses the information she learns at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay every day, even when she’s building a COVID-19 test site. She is currently a student in the Master of Science in Health and Wellness Management program.

Jennie Morehead
Jennie Morehead
Jennie Morehead wearing a face mask
Jennie Morehead with face mask

Morehead, who lives in Paducah, Kentucky, was working as the executive director of wellness at HealthWorks Medical, LLC when COVID-19 hit. With the pandemic, she wasn’t able to provide that in-person patient care anymore. But when an anonymous donor offered to pay for 1,000 test kits and processing, her company jumped at the chance to be able to provide that service to their community.

Using a church parking lot and outbuilding breezeway, a donated trailer from Fishing League Worldwide (FLW), and $250,000 from their anonymous donor, Morehead and members of a community wide taskforce were able to build the facility in a couple of days, she said. The effort was led by Morehead’s boss, Kyle Turnbo, MD, FAOCM, MPH, MRO.

The testing facility used the breezeway to house the actual testing process. The donor paid for the breezeway to be enclosed by a local contractor, complete with two automatic garage doors, for patients to enter and exit while staying in their vehicle. The FLW fishing trailer with a stage and office allowed staff to safely collect patient data prior to testing.

“When our owner, Dr. (J. Kyle) Turnbo, got that call, he said, ‘Well, we’ll just build our own site,’” she said. “And he made a community task force of our local Baptist hospital and our local Mercy hospital and then he said, ‘Look, I’ve got the tests. We’ve got the staff. We’ll be happy to run it if you all will help us build a site. That way the patients can stay out of the hospital, they can stay out of the doctors’ offices and we test them, and any physician that wanted to order a test could do that and it’s free.’”

Prior to working in corporate wellness, Morehead worked in safety engineering, so she called her construction contacts. Her husband, a retired professional fisherman, called his contacts with the FLW. Using the parking lot and annex building of a local church, they were able to create the testing site in three days.

“So a car can drive in and we shut the door behind them and they can be tested out of the wind out of the elements that we don’t have to worry about cross-contaminating,” she said. Having the testing happen inside also helps with HIPAA regulations, she said.

Morehead said she had just started her studies at UW-Green Bay when the outbreak started, but that she uses what she learns almost daily.

“When I started looking at what the topics were and what the classes were that were offered at the University, it was something I could see practicality in each of those classes that could I could immediately apply back into our work which is what I’m doing now,” she said. “You know, every time I take a class I’m like ‘Oh! I wish I’d known that before I did that program or I wish I’d know that before we developed this.’”

In addition, she said, her professors were great to work with as she managed working and studying at the same time.

“My professors, all of them have been more than kind because I started on March the 10th. And everything went crazy on March 11th. And they’ve been really nice to work with because you can only do so much in the day, and I appreciate their willingness to work with me on when assignments are due.

“I chose UW-Green Bay because I wanted to have an academic degree in wellness as our corporate wellness division is bidding wellness program work on a national platform. We service the majority of the national river industry and now national companies that have locations all over the United States. My first career was in heavy industrial construction occupational safety and health engineering. When bidding work nationally, my CV is often requested by potential clients, and I wanted my academic background to show that I am more than qualified to lead my team in corporate wellness while drawing from my experience as a safety and health engineer. UW-Green Bay was the only school I could find that seemed to offer wellness classes that I could transpose into the non-academic world almost immediately.”

So far, the drive-thru test site has tested more than 930 residents from Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Illinois, she said. All of those tested have been ordered to get tests from their doctors. Now that the free tests are almost gone, the task force will enter phase two of the testing program, closing down and cleaning up the drive-thru testing site, and opening up another one somewhere else.

Instead of the three days it took to bring the drive through site together, the process for closing down and cleaning up the drive-thru site and opening up another testing site is expected to take a little longer – between three and four weeks, Morehead said.

Story by Liz Carey

Title Graphic with a phoenix and the words, "UW-Green Bay Spring 2020 Senior Reflections

Video: UW-Green Bay spring 2020 seniors express their gratitude

UW-Green Bay Spring 2020 seniors reflect on their favorite memories and challenges and share their personal gratitude. To help stop the spread of COVID-19, UW-Green Bay rescheduled the 2020 Spring Commencement ceremony to Saturday, August 22, 2020. Let’s celebrate these seniors—this week and in August!

Video Transcript:

I am so proud to be a UW-Green Bay graduate. I have grown so much here as a leader and as a person. And I have made so many friends. And my professors know me by name. I am so proud to be a leader and I’m so proud to be a Phoenix. There are so many people I work with and who have taught me in my four years and it’s been amazing. And I’m so grateful for the time, wisdom, energy, patience—literally everything that they have poured into me. And I’m a much better, much more confident person because of them.

I’m really proud of myself for being a graduate, because odds were stacked against me. I’m a first-generation college student. I’m Puerto Rican. My parental figures were incarcerated. Addiction runs rampant in my family. I wasn’t just a number when I came here. I was a person they saw potential and they helped me to reach my full potential they helped me to do so much more than I ever thought that I would be able to do. What makes me most proud to be a UW-Green Bay graduate is just knowing the amount of opportunities that students have to get involved in the community and to get involved on the campus.

I’m proud to be an alumna of the University that gives it students incredible opportunities to be successful in their college career and in the future the thing I’m going to miss most about campus life is I’m going to miss seeing my friends every single day even on weekends when we were still able to hang out. Campus has a wonderful community feeling to it and that’s going to be something really hard to say goodbye to. Most of all I’m grateful that UWGB became so much more than just a place to go to school it became my home and it gave me a second family.

I definitely think that dealing with the COVID-19 challenges did make me stronger and more resilient because it really forced me to be a self-starter and self-motivated and to reach out to my professors if I didn’t understand something… or to really be a leader and take ownership of my academics.

It was a hard time for the class of 2020, who else can say they graduated in a pandemic and made it through! Plus, I ended up with some pretty good grades so I’m pretty proud of myself!

The thing that I’m going to miss most about campus is my professors. They are definitely a very good reason on why I have succeeded in the way that I have these past couple of years. The generosity and support that they have constantly shown me… it’s just absolutely astounding so I just definitely wanted to thank them. They are a very big reason why I got to where I am today.

I couldn’t ask for a better college experience. I’m so so proud of myself for what I’ve done and I’m so thankful to GB for helping me get there. I’m really proud to be a Phoenix and I’m really happy that we’re graduating and that we made it through, so go Phoenix! Happy graduation class of 2020! We did it and I’m really happy that I got to graduate with all of you and that I got to graduate from UWGB because it’s an experience that I’ll never forget and there aren’t enough words to say how grateful I am and how amazing college was at Green Bay.

UW-Green Bay, I love you and I’m really going to miss you. Go Phoenix.