COVID-19 Update from the President
Today marks the beginning of our second full week of classes. After so many months apart, it is exciting to see the family back together. We look forward to continuing in-person classes through the end of this semester (the day before Thanksgiving), which means everyone must play it safe on- and off-campus between now and then.
So, allow me to express the bottom line up front: Following the guidelines established by the University Pandemic Task Force will get us there. Failing to follow them will not.
As we anticipated in our planning the last few months, the resumption of in-person activities has resulted in an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases on-campus. This increase is not a surprise. Instead, it is the natural consequence of friends (new and old) who are happy to see each other and want to pick up where they left off before the pandemic hit. Unfortunately, these are not normal times, which means we must redouble our collective efforts to march “together forward but six feet apart.” I am confident we can do exactly that.
Successful people understand the value of delayed gratification. Men and women of character know that discomfort in the short-term yields big dividends down the road. And while none of us would have ever wished for the opportunity to build that kind of character in this way, disciplining ourselves to play it safe between now and Thanksgiving may be the most important lesson we learn this semester. No pain, no gain. Not fun, but necessary. Most importantly, worth it in the end.
Our analytics tell us that the rise in cases can be traced almost exclusively to off-campus activities where members of our campus community let down their guard and neglected to follow the guidelines that work so well on campus. I review those guidelines below, but the intent of this message is to urge all of us to remember that the virus doesn’t care if you are on-campus or off-campus. I wish that were not the case, but I know for certain that “hope” alone is not an effective strategy without the disciplined behavior to back it up. Please consider this a call for that kind of discipline to be demonstrated 24/7 in the life of every Buccaneer.
In the spirit of transparency and in the hope that reality will remind us of the part we all play in getting from here to Thanksgiving, here’s a look at the numbers. As of August 26 at 8:30 a.m., we have documented: 23 positive COVID-19 tests within our student population of 3,400. Of these 23 cases, 6 are residing on campus in dedicated isolation rooms. We are also monitoring an additional 36 symptomatic students in isolation out of an abundance of caution as we await their test results. Of these 36 students, 21 are now residing in dedicated isolation rooms on-campus (with the remainder in their own off-campus housing).
In addition, we are monitoring 104 students in quarantine, 59 of whom are living on campus (with the remainder in their own off-campus housing). As a reminder, students in quarantine were identified as a close contact of a student in isolation and are NOT actively symptomatic. Based on interviews with those in isolation, these students may have been exposed to the virus, so we want to limit their ability to spread the virus in case they have been infected.
To complete the picture, 3 CSU employees are currently in isolation, and 11 are quarantined.
While these numbers are elevated, though expected, during this transition back into community, it is important to point out that the large majority of students in isolation are mildly symptomatic, and no students have required hospitalization.
Keeping Campus Safe
Students who receive a negative COVID-19 test while in isolation are immediately released from isolation, and their identified close contacts are released from quarantine. All residential students in isolation or quarantine are given the option to return home if they wish. In fact, we encourage those who can return home during the 14-day period to do so, if possible, for their own comfort and to keep as many isolation rooms open as possible on-campus.
Students unable to return home due to distance or family health concerns can continue their coursework remotely and will receive meals delivered from our Dining Hall throughout their isolation or quarantine period. In addition, we have developed a campus ministry to support these students if they chose to participate, which includes care packages made by local church members and delivered by CSU staff. Plus, we have partnered with local churches to host two virtual check-in meetings a day for students who wish to participate, meetings which will include fellowship and prayer.
Again, while any COVID case is less than ideal, we anticipated a rise in cases as we returned to communal living on-campus. If nothing else, human nature is predictable in its longing for relationships in community. That’s how God made us. But now that we have seen firsthand the effects of not following the public health policies and procedures we have in place, it’s time to do our part to flatten the curve on campus. As evidenced by the number of infections traced to off-campus activities, we know these policies and procedures work. So, let’s put them into practice – on- and off-campus, without exception.
In order to help facilitate this process and to ensure we can continue face-to-face classes on campus for the duration of this semester, we are making the following temporary changes for at least two weeks, effective August 26 at 9 a.m.
- All Student Life activities are postponed or will be held in a virtual format during this reset period.
- Student-athlete practices and workouts are suspended during this reset period. Student-athletes will continue to meet with their coaches virtually.
- Off-campus activities should follow these same protocols because COVID-19 can’t tell if you’re on-campus or off-campus.
Continue Guidelines On- and Off-Campus
In addition to the above measures, please be reminded of the following public health guidelines which are in place on-campus and should be followed off-campus:
- Face masks are REQUIRED in all areas of campus. This mandate applies to faculty, staff, students, and guests. Face masks may only be removed outdoors when socially distant, when working alone in offices, or while living in your personal dorm room or suite. They may also be removed while eating, but it is important to note that social distancing should be maintained at all times while the face mask is removed. The face mask or cloth face covering is not a substitute for social distancing.
- Mask alternatives such as neck fleece (i.e., neck gaiter) or bandanas (see below) do not significantly reduce the amount or the rate of viral droplet transmission, so these mask alternatives theoretically provide less protection and thus should not be considered as a viable face mask option.
- All students will be required to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure prior to arriving to campus or leaving assigned dorm rooms every day utilizing the LiveSafe application. All students will be required to demonstrate successful completion (green check mark and time stamp) of the Daily Health Check prior to entering their classrooms or the dining hall on-campus.
- When engaging individuals off-campus, you would be wise to assume everyone you meet might be infected with COVID-19. There’s no way to know for sure, so following the same protocols off-campus as you do on-campus decreases your chances of infection. Better safe than sorry!
- You are not allowed to eat during class since this would require you to remove your face mask (which is prohibited—for the safety of yourself and others). Please ensure you plan appropriately. There is NO food or drink allowed in the classrooms this semester.
- Minimize touch points in bathrooms as much as possible by using your paper towel to open the bathroom door if possible.
- Until further notice, NO IN-PERSON meetings are allowed on-campus. This includes meeting with your instructors, advisors, or any student groups face-to-face. For now, virtual meetings will replace in-person meetings. While it’s not the same, it is a reasonable alternative until we flatten the curve.
- For the same reasons and until further notice, there should be no large gatherings on campus this semester, even when face masks are being worn, to minimize the risk of spreading infection.
- A “close contact” is defined as anyone within 6 feet of you for more than 15 minutes, whether or not you or they are wearing a mask. Please be mindful of your interactions with others, so we can limit the spread of the virus.
As a reminder, all of our COVID-19 guidance is detailed in the CSU Return to Campus Guide.
It is critically important that we all work together to follow these guidelines both on- and off-campus to ensure the safety of ourselves and others—and to allow us to continue in-person classes this semester. We closely monitor individual cases and trends and are prepared to revert to remote/online instruction if necessary, even if for brief periods to flatten the curve more quickly. Doing so would not necessarily mean we would stay remote/online for the remainder of the semester, nor would it necessarily require students to vacate the residence halls. It is simply a reminder that we share responsibility as a community to do the right thing, even when nobody is looking.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the University Pandemic Task Force with questions or concerns. You can contact them directly by emailing email@example.com. This email address is monitored Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Any emails received after 5 p.m. on Friday will be addressed on Monday.
Finally, as we dive headfirst into this semester for the ages, keep the #BUCSAFE pledge in mind every step of the way. If everyone works together for the common good, we can reach our goal.
Thanksgiving Eve will be here before you know it. Between now and then, “let us run with endurance the race set out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3). That’s what delayed gratification looks like. Trust Him to see you through.