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Viral Volunteers

NC State employees and students lent a helping hand on campus during COVID-19.

Deanna Dannels is dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and a former professor of communication. But this past spring, she found herself in Witherspoon Student Center every Tuesday morning, helping run the largest COVID-19 testing site on campus.

Dannels was part of the almost 300 faculty, staff and students who traded in their regular academic and campus commitments to lend a hand to help stave off COVID-19 and its effects on campus in 2020 and 2021. Volunteers served in Feed the Pack, the campus food pantry, and helped keep it running. They fielded calls on the Wolfpack Response Line, an already existing service that saw an increased volume of calls pertaining to COVID-19. And the volunteers checked in on students who were in isolation and quarantine housing.

Students who were in isolation or quarantine had a number of requests and needs, says Justine Hollingshead, assistant vice chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs, who helped organize the volunteer efforts. When they ran out of prescriptions for things such as Flonase or needed help remedying laptop trouble, the volunteers were there to make runs for them and get them what they needed.


Total faculty, staff and students who volunteered to help the coronavirus effort during the 2020 – 21 academic year.


Number of calls answered by the Wolfpack Response Line since March 2020.


Feed the Pack never fully closed during the pandemic, open anywhere from two to three days a week. It served more than 6,000 people.


Number of COVID-19 tests NC State conducted on average each week during the spring semester.


Tests took less than five minutes to administer and collect, and results were usually available in six to 18 hours.

Faculty, staff and student volunteers at seven testing sites checked in those wanting tests, verified IDs and gave instructions on the self-administered swabs. The swabs then were taken to NC State’s in-house testing lab at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dannels, who was an associate dean during her volunteer time — she took over as dean in July — ended up serving as a supervisor for the largest testing site on campus, at Witherspoon Student Center. She says the work gave her a chance to adjust to living in a world with COVID-19, moving from feeling nervous and cautious to understanding how to maneuver safely at a testing site with gloves and facemasks. And, she says, “It did a lot to help me to understand the complexities of what it means to keep this community safe.”

Hollingshead says that people like Dannels helped make sure the university could come out on the other side of COVID-19. “There is a direct correlation,” says Hollingshead, “because if we weren’t doing the testing, if we didn’t have people helping with the testing, we wouldn’t be able to know if there is infection and to be able to address it as quickly as we have been. It was the right decision.”

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