August 7, 2020
As we draw closer to move-in days and the start of classes, I'm getting excited about seeing you and welcoming you back to campus. We've been getting ready for your return for many months with a new level of preparation focused on making campus as safe as possible for all members of our community.
Our campus reopening plan began in June with the arrival of a number of students who took residence and on-line instruction, and others who moved into off-campus student housing. This gradual return has taught us a lot, including the responsibilities all of us will have to ensure a fully successful reopening.
We have learned a lot about how COVID-19 is transmitted, and it's mostly in group settings where physical distancing is not practiced, and face coverings are not worn. We have seen the virus transmitted in small study groups on campus and in off-campus student housing. And we have seen the virus transmitted in off campus bars, restaurants, and student apartment parties.
Here's the bottom line: each and every one of us must practice physical distancing and wear face coverings. It's how we'll protect ourselves and those around us. It's how we'll reduce the spread of COVID-19 and get our lives on campus back to normal as soon as possible.
Scientists are making new discoveries about COVID-19 every day, and we know that properly worn face coverings (that cover your nose and mouth) reduce your chance of getting COVID-19 by 65%. Wearing face coverings and physical distancing reduces the chance of transmission by 90%. That's why we're requiring you to wear face coverings in all campus buildings, including classrooms. You also should wear one outside if you can't distance from those around you. Because these are the most at-risk situations, you should wear one when you are hanging around friends in off-campus social settings. Why not wear face coverings even when you can maintain distance? It's simple to do.
Let's face it. College students are young and gregarious. You haven't seen each other for many months, and it's exciting to be back together. We want you to enjoy each other, but we also know that close gatherings without protection and separation are simply the surest way to get infected and to spread this virus into an unacceptable level. If we get to that level, we'll be faced with the decision to close the university like we did last March. None of us wants that to happen.
So, my advice is to come back eager to see each other. But come back with the commitment to keep yourself safe and healthy. By doing so, you'll keep the rest of us safe and healthy. I know that face coverings and physical distancing may be challenging for some of you, especially at parties and in Five Points, but we do not want the alternative.
I didn't write this letter to tell you things you already know. I know you know what to do. The question is, will you do it? Will you commit yourself to the Gamecock and Columbia communities and behave in such a way that protects yourself and others? Will you participate in #IPledgeColumbia and take the pledge? And when you do, will you live by it?
I hope so. Because I want you back on campus and I want us to stay together. We're South Carolina – strong, determined, resilient and caring. We dig deep and we soar high. Come on home, Gamecocks, with face coverings on and Spurs Up. I can't wait to see you soon.
Forever to Thee,