Dear Members of the Methodist University Community,
As you know, a surge in COVID-19 cases on campus that was localized in three residence halls led to my decision to ask the students in those residence halls to return home for a two-week period. This was a difficult decision that was made only after very careful consideration and consultation with health care experts. This week, I am happy that we are welcoming all these students back into the residence halls.
I know this involved sacrifice on the part of the students who returned home, and I am deeply grateful for that sacrifice. As a result of these efforts, we appear to have brought COVID-19 cases down to a much lower and much more manageable number. Whereas two weeks ago we reached a critical point where we had 25 students in isolation on campus (tested positive) and 32 students in quarantine on campus (close contacts), as of this morning we are down to one student in isolation on campus and an additional one student in quarantine on campus.
Not only am I grateful to the many students who had to go home for two weeks, I also am grateful to the health care professionals, the residence life team, and the leadership team that helped me to make this decision. We were able to act quickly because people were paying attention. The spike in cases happened very rapidly over a 48-hour period. Because staff worked quickly and diligently over long hours to do the necessary contact tracing and testing, we were able to identify the three residence halls with clusters before the virus spread beyond them. These quick actions and a significant dose of good fortune helped us, at least for now, to get the virus back to a manageable level on campus.
The other thing that helped tremendously was that after the three residence halls were closed for two weeks, everyone remaining on campus began to take social distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene even more seriously than before.
If each and every one of us can take personal responsibility for managing this virus, I am confident we will be able to complete the semester in person. But we must realize, as our students are saying all across campus, “It’s In Our Hands.” I would love nothing more than to be able to personally guarantee that the COVID-19 numbers will remain low until Thanksgiving, but it is not just up to me. We can only make that guarantee together.
There is overwhelming medical and scientific evidence that social distancing and mask wearing make an enormous difference both in reducing the numbers of people who become infected and in reducing the severity of infection in those who do become infected.
And despite what you may hear, there also is overwhelming evidence that mask wearing is both effective and safe. As I demonstrated in my video earlier this semester, and as has been demonstrated in much more careful scientific experiments, mask wearing does not reduce the amount of oxygen we receive. In addition, masks do not “trap germs” on our faces. In fact, masks prevent us from both inhaling and exhaling the virus. If masks truly did trap germs on our faces, I can assure you that medical professionals in hospitals and testing centers would not be wearing masks all day, every day. Yes, masks can be hot and uncomfortable, but they are safe.
So please, let’s truly move Forward Together. Let’s realize that if we really want to complete this semester in person, each of us must take personal responsibility for helping to make that happen. If you have any questions, need information or a contact, please continue to visit our resource web site www.methodist.edu/forward.
I know we can do this, and I believe in the Monarch spirit that will light the way!
Stanley T. Wearden, Ph.D.