March 18, 2022

As we wind down COVID protocols, thank you

Dear Campus Community,

January 30, 2020, seems like a lifetime ago. It was a Thursday, the first time a campus message mentioned COVID-19, or the “2019 Novel Coronavirus” as we called it then. We were more concerned about seasonal flu, but that would soon change. Over the next several weeks, as the pandemic grew in the U.S. and abroad, we extended spring break, canceled MayX and brought home our students who were studying internationally.

In the two-plus years since, there have been a multitude of changes and challenges, personally and professionally. It has been the most difficult time of my career. But I was always confident that we at Furman were doing our best to keep each other safe from the virus, thanks to your efforts, dedication and unrelenting resolve to keep going. Everyone stepped up, every time.

I would like to especially thank the COVID Response Committee (Jeremy Cass, Ann Gilchrist, Meghan Slining, Jodi Steffes, Ron Thompson, Christine Velasquez, John Wheeler) and its leader, Jason Cassidy, associate vice president for Student Life and dean of students, and the Public Health and Safety Advisory Group (Elaine Baker, Anna Cass, Carmela Epright, Ann Gilchrist, John Milby, Meghan Slining, Bernie Stanton, Natalie The), and its leader, John Wheeler, associate provost for integrative science.

For Jason, John and the many members of those and related committees, handling the pandemic has been incessant, demanding their attention daily. We are also fortunate to have outstanding epidemiologists on our faculty and health professionals on our campus who served on these committees and helped us understand the virus and its threat to campus.

These groups met constantly for more than two years to try to stay ahead of the virus. They created mask policies, planned screenings and testing opportunities, figured out the complexities of isolation protocols, and patiently answered hundreds of questions from students and parents, faculty, staff and others.

It is largely because of their efforts, and the Furman community’s commitment to following guidance and getting vaccinated, that fewer than 7% of students living on campus, and fewer than 7% of faculty and staff, reported contracting COVID during the 2021-2022 academic year, despite the widespread proliferation of the delta and omicron variants.

The COVID Response Committee today sent its 140th communication. This group will no longer meet regularly, so we don’t expect to hear from them with the same frequency. I hope these dedicated faculty and staff can get some much deserved rest.

This doesn’t mean we’re letting our guard down. The Earle Student Health Center and Human Resources will continue to monitor infection rates. If the virus starts to threaten campus again, we have a remarkable model to follow and can quickly reactivate our response teams.

Again, thank you, everyone, for all your efforts, during the pandemic and always.

Warmly,

Elizabeth Davis

President