September 11, 2020
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
As we conclude this third week of classes, I write to tell you about an important event on our campus yesterday and to update you on COVID-19 testing on campus and in the community. I also would like to offer a bit of optimism as we settle into the fall semester.
Ambassador Deborah Birx, an internationally respected and acclaimed physician and public health leader, met yesterday with members of the Future Planning Group and community leaders during a half-day visit to our university. Dr. Birx was briefed by our student health and public health experts and met with student leaders. She was impressed with our COVID-19 response plan and said we are one of 10 schools in the nation with such a comprehensive COVID-19 plan and one that maximizes so many university resources. She also applauded our commitment and said later, "They didn't put their heads in the sand; they tackled a very difficult issue head on with a very dynamic plan." Dr. Birx also offered her expertise and insight into ways we can continue to improve our response.
The very nature of a dynamic plan is flexibility, and we continue to adapt our work to meet the ever-changing public health needs on our campus. What doesn't change is our commitment to your health, safety and wellbeing. We are ramping up our capacity to test asymptomatic students, faculty and staff and are conducting targeted testing on campus based on wastewater monitoring. In addition, we are proud to partner with federal, state and local leaders to bring surge testing to the campus and Midlands communities next week. I'm pleased that today's dashboard update reveals a decrease in active cases and in the positivity rate on campus, but we must stay actively vigilant and responsive as we anticipate finding more positive cases next week due to effects of the Labor Day weekend and increased testing on campus. We are also increasing our capacity for quarantine and isolation so that we can continue to care for those who test positive or were exposed to those who did.
Dr. Birx told us yesterday that maintaining a college experience for students is "critical to public health." Students are better off being part of a university community and having access to the wide variety of student services offered on campus, including healthcare. When I look around our university and see the innovation, imagination and creativity of our academics and research, student life and athletics in the midst of a pandemic, I am inspired and optimistic. We are living out our mission with resilience and determination. We're not yet through the woods of COVID-19, and some days are more challenging than others. Nevertheless, we remain resolute in our commitment to take care of our community and to take the responsible road forward. We are in this together.
Gamecocks, I am committed to keeping our university open through the semester. Make no mistake; this commitment does not mean that we stay open at all costs. A responsible, dynamic plan leaves no room for reckless behavior. We will continue to care for all of you, and I ask you to take care of yourselves and each other by wearing your masks, practicing social distancing and getting tested. Avoid situations that put you at risk. Take advantage of our health services and opportunities that promote your wellbeing.
Finally, know that I am proud to serve as your president and grateful to each of you for your dedication to our great university.