July 17, 2020
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
With just over four weeks until the start of classes, I write to update you on our preparations for reopening campus for the Fall 2020 semester. I’m sure you have been following the rising number of COVID-19 cases in South Carolina, and I appreciate that some of you might be concerned about returning to campus during such an uncertain time. The numbers are concerning, but I want you to know that I remain confident in our plan to reopen. We have spent months developing this plan, which is based on the scientific modeling of our own stellar research faculty, embodies best practices in risk mitigation, and provides clear indicators of when and how to adapt to changing conditions. University epidemiologists and public health experts are in steady communication with local and state leaders, and we are fine-tuning our risk mitigation plan regularly to create the safest possible conditions in which to study, work and live together.
Please plan to join us next week for one of two virtual town hall meetings: Tuesday, July 21 at 6:00 p.m. for faculty and staff; and Wednesday, July 22 at 6:00 p.m. for students, parents and families. Our new Provost Bill Tate will be among the town hall participants, and Dr. Debbie Beck, Assistant Vice President of Health and Wellness and Executive Director of Student Health Services (SHS), will provide an update on our campus risk mitigation plan, including details on testing and protocols for isolation, quarantine and contact tracing. Dr. Beck also will discuss our capacity for on-campus healthcare delivery and the partnership between SHS and Columbia-area healthcare providers.
Our plan to mitigate risk and limit the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in the Columbia community will succeed only if every student, faculty and staff member commits to appropriate public health behavior both on and off campus. Please make your commitment and join the #IPledgeColumbia campaign. I have heard from countless UofSC students who want nothing more than to be back on their campus with their community. An Axios poll earlier this week found that 76% of college students would return to campus this fall if they have the option, and 95% of students said they wear masks when they can’t social distance. This is good news.
Gamecocks, I am eager to welcome you back to campus next month, but I also stand prepared to alter our plan should that become necessary. I am relieved that just a few days ago the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rescinded its directive that would have barred all international students from the U.S. if all of their classes were delivered online.
Your health, safety and wellbeing remain our top priority as we look to a new semester that will demand patience, determination and resilience from all of us.
Forever to Thee,