As we begin the week, I ask all of you to visit our COVID-19 dashboard for an update on the number of positive cases within our community. Last week’s total (36 – including 33 students) was markedly higher than the previous week’s; I have two main points that I wish to impress upon you.
First, this is not unexpected. We all anticipated a rise in cases these first few weeks of the semester, and the university is prepared for these sorts of numbers. Based on what we’ve seen play out at campuses across the country, in fact, we should not be surprised to see these kinds of numbers in the next couple of weeks.
Secondly, no one needs to panic right now, but no one should become complacent, either. We should all find these numbers a sobering reminder that COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus that can quickly spread and put people in danger if we allow our judgments to lapse for even a few minutes.
Thankfully, I am told most of our community members with confirmed cases are experiencing only mild symptoms, and most of the impacted individuals either in quarantine or isolation are off campus. Additionally, there is currently no evidence of virus transmission in classrooms or in facilities such as the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex (AARC).
There is, however, evidence tracing some of these infections to off-campus gatherings, as well as a few instances of resident students having guests inside their residence hall rooms. So far, it appears these gatherings have been small and relatively subdued (for example, one cluster of cases was tied to a simple card game in which students were gathered close together without their face coverings; another was from a group watching sports on TV also without masks). These remind us that gatherings do not need to be large to put people at risk.
I cannot stress enough that this semester will be unlike any other before; until COVID-19 is under control, we cannot afford to relax even a little when it comes to the measures and protocols outlined in our Campus Preparedness Plan, such as:
- Practicing social distancing
- Wearing a mask or other cloth face covering, particularly when indoors but also outdoors when in a group or where social distancing is difficult to maintain
- Washing your hands regularly (or use hand sanitizer)
- Staying home if you are feeling sick!
- If you are a resident student, following our guest policy; please remember that guests are not allowed in the residence halls and that resident students cannot visit halls to which they are not assigned
- Respecting the measures implemented in dining and other common areas (translation: put your face covering back on if you are not eating, do not move chairs or stickers that were placed in areas to accommodate social distancing, etc.)
These next few weeks will be absolutely critical in determining if we can remain open for in-person instruction. If we can stabilize our number of positive cases, we will be in a strong position.
Stay self-aware. Stay safe. Maintain our culture of care, Tommies. We can do this.