Initial Fall Semester Update
President Woodward shared the following messages with the campus community on Sept. 9.
Dear Campus Community,
I hope the week is going well and that you have had a chance to enjoy the outdoors; it is beginning to turn ever so gently into a beautiful New England fall.
As I walk around campus, I feel a positive energy. We are adapting pretty well to the complexities of our current reality as we learn and grow together. I have had the opportunity to speak with many of you and fully realize how important it is for our students to be on campus this semester. We are off to a great start and sincerely hope we can sustain that attitude and momentum by staying informed, being cautious, and demonstrating our dedication to keeping each other safe.
The University has launched a COVID-19 Dashboard that will be updated several times each week with additional data points. For now, it displays a cumulative total and a summary of the weekly proactive community testing. The cumulative total combines the results of tests conducted in Health Services, weekly proactive community testing, and positive results reported by students and employees tested off campus. This week, we had zero positives in our weekly proactive testing and a report of six additional student positives cases, adding to the one positive we had last week. All of these students have been appropriately isolated with contacts identified through comprehensive and professional contact tracing. We are offering medical, housing, and academic support to these students as needed.
Our deep concern for safety, security, and sensitivity requires us to go above and beyond the average health requirements. While many schools have enlisted students or academic staff to assist the local health agencies with contact tracing, we have hired 14 registered nurses who work seven days a week to quickly and effectively identify contacts, assess concerns, and monitor health assessments. We have consulted with an environmental health and safety firm and contracted with additional cleaning crews to provide around-the-clock sanitizing in academic and residential common spaces. We are being extremely proactive in our testing, including testing students who present any potential symptoms of COVID-19 in Health Services as well as any potential contacts. Several options exist to ramp up our testing over the next several weeks. The University has also invested and implemented wastewater testing, an unusual precautionary action among our peers. All of these efforts and results will be shared through the online Dashboard, UNotes, and email communications.
Students are doing their part and adjusting to a new way of living and learning on campus. The current community rules and expectations are not what any of us would choose to implement for our preferred student experience, but—for now—they are necessary. We look forward to revisiting and making updates in line with the health of our University community. We have added facilities and public safety student ambassadors, have staff performing regular patrols, and are grateful for the support of the incredible student staff in residential life to monitor our collective and individual behavior and challenges.
However, even with this positive news, we continue to receive hundreds of anonymous tips about mask usage concerns through the LiveSafe app each week. Many of you are asking the University to give your friends and peers formal warnings. This is simply not possible or sustainable to this degree—the staffing necessary would be overwhelming. Instead, I am asking each of you, and specifically our students, to be your own best advocates and safety ambassadors. If you see someone wearing a mask below their nose, nicely remind them it should be pulled up or simply motion to their mask. If your friends are taking their masks off when they shouldn’t or aren’t following social distancing requirements, please be honest; tell them you really need and want to be here all semester. Their behavior could contribute to an outbreak of infection, making it impossible for us to complete the semester on campus. If you are one of the students we are receiving pictures of, your friends want you to wear your mask and take this seriously! Please make this simple effort to help protect you, your friends and family, and our community.
There are no guarantees in these uncertain times; however, as each new scenario unfolds, I see our campus team putting into motion plans developed over many months to keep us safe. These are unprecedented situations, but I can say with complete confidence that we have implemented every precaution and measure at our disposal—without consideration for expense—to create and help maintain a safe campus for our community. Please continue to do your personal best every day and expect the same from those around you. I am proud of what we, and what you, have accomplished so far. Keep going! We can do this.