Dear Campus Community,
This weekend we worked to have more activities on campus, and I was pleased to see so many students participating. I want to thank Drs. Alex Miller and Raj Ballani for making the food trucks available and appreciate the many student development staff who were on campus both nights to help with events. I also want to thank all of the students who wrote to Dr. Miller with ideas for ways we can continue to enhance social life within our COVID guidelines. Lots of students have volunteered to help.
Reported numbers of COVID cases continue to be low. We have five or fewer current active cases on campus as of the sending of this email. The contact tracing has also been going well. We have learned that when students are following the community guidelines, a positive case does not require us to quarantine many peers. That’s good news.
A number of students have written me with very specific questions about things they should or should not do. We are asking students to do two things: follow the community guidelines and exercise good judgement.
At the core, we are working to manage risk. We can’t manage risk to zero. But the more we each do individually, the greater the likelihood that we won’t have a large outbreak on campus. In particular, we are asking everyone to avoid crowded indoor spaces; practice good hand washing hygiene, mask wearing and physical distancing protocols; and be outdoors.
This New York Times article by Aaron Carroll is worth reading. It lays out the general approach we are asking everyone on campus to join us in implementing. I also think it is a really good article for us, as liberal arts scholars and students, to read as we work to understand this historical moment.
For me the essence of the article is the following passage:
“As we loosen restrictions in some areas, we should be increasing restrictions in others. If kids are going to take on more risk at school, they should find ways to be even safer outside of it. Large groupings at a friend’s house are not a good idea.
Too many view protective measures as all or nothing: Either we do everything, or we might as well do none. That’s wrong. Instead, we need to see that all our behavior adds up.
Each decision we make to reduce risk helps. Each time we wear a mask, we’re throwing some safety on the pile. Each time we socialize outside instead of inside, we’re throwing some safety on the pile. Each time we stay six feet away instead of sitting closer together, we’re throwing some safety on the pile. Each time we wash our hands, eat apart and don’t spend time in large gatherings of people, we’re adding to the pile.
If the pile gets big enough, we as a society can keep this thing in check.”
As the author makes clear, every time each of us makes a decision to avoid a risk, we add "some safety" to our campus pile.
The vast majority of our students are navigating COVID well most of the time. The biggest issues remain outdoor gatherings. People are doing better with wearing masks but we need to do better at night in our outdoor gatherings with physical distancing. We will continue to monitor and adapt. We are also paying close attention to the symptom monitoring tool which is core to our campus health plans. Students have been really good about completing the daily symptom check, but there was a slight drop off the last few days that we are monitoring carefully. Please complete the symptom check every single day.
Thanks for what you are doing in support of our campus and of one another.