Dear Mines Students,
Through the first six weeks of the semester, we saw limited spread of COVID-19 within our campus community, as well as few interruptions to classes, campus operations and services.
As you can see in our latest COVID-19 dashboard update, the needle has moved in a worrisome direction.
More than 30 members of our community have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last two weeks and are in isolation and more than 160 students who were close contacts of those cases are now in quarantine–and some of them are in quarantine for the second time.
There is some good news along with the worrisome news, and a clear path forward. The good news is that through the efforts of our COVID-19 Response Initiator Team (CRIT), we understand the reason for the uptick in cases. It is the result of a few gatherings where mask wearing and social distancing requirements were not followed, some interactions with individuals from outside our campus community, and lax mask use in social settings—particularly meal settings.
We’re scientists and engineers, and we learn through data and experience. If there has ever been any doubt in your mind about the effectiveness of masks and distancing – and how easily this virus can transmit in social settings when those guidelines are not followed – this data should erase that doubt. This experience also highlights how the individual decisions of a few can impact many in our community.
We’ve spoken at length with CRIT, met with students at the beginning and end of their quarantines, and heard from those who have been sick and in isolation. They tell us this virus exacts a heavy toll—and not just a physical one for those who are sick.
But there is a clear path forward. We know what to do. We can effectively impede the spread of this virus again. To do so, we must wear a mask (even in study groups), maintain a safe distance of six feet at all times (even when outside), keep social gatherings small, and limit contact with those outside the Mines bubble. This approach is incredibly effective. You can do it. We can do it.
But we must course correct. To use a sports analogy, we’re shooting 95 percent from the field today, which is amazing in most situations, but not with this virus. We have to move to 99 percent-plus.
One very specific request: We have seen groups gathered for meals who lower their masks while eating, but then continue discussions for some time afterward without their masks. Please mask-up as soon as you have finished eating.
That’s all it will take. Masking up between bites and in all social settings. Keeping those gatherings small. Staying close to campus rather than visiting old friends.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. When our friends and community members exit quarantine in two weeks, let’s have them rejoin a campus that’s even safer than when they last roamed it freely. Let’s do that for them, and for us all.
Thanks again. And as always…
PCJ, Dan and Peter
Paul C. Johnson, President and Professor
Daniel P. Fox, Vice President for Student Life
Peter Han, Chief of Staff