Dear Marietta College Campus Community and The Long Blue Line,
Our students and employees received important information earlier this week about our efforts to stem the surge of COVID-19 cases and resulting quarantine cases on campus by implementing a reduced activity and enhanced physical distancing policy. Tomorrow, Friday, November 6th, will mark the two-week period that those additional safety measures were taken, and I must commend each of you for doing your part to help us bring our numbers down to a more manageable level.
Of course, the Marietta College Cocktail will remain in full effect on campus (properly wearing facemasks, frequent handwashing, safe physical distancing, and monitoring for symptoms and fever), but some restrictions will be loosened. Students will now be able to attend off-campus gatherings, visit other residence halls and spend time in the Marietta community. Athletics is looking at ways to reengage student-athletes before they return home for Winter Break. We all need to do this in a responsible manner – no large gatherings, minimal travel, and making good decisions.
We currently have only six active cases and 34 students and employees in quarantine — with many of them expected to be released from care and quarantine this weekend. I must thank our Health and Wellness staff and the entire Student Life Division for their tireless work throughout this semester. They have been working around the clock caring for and finding improved ways to care for our students.
Yesterday, the Medical Division of the Ohio National Guard conducted a free testing clinic for the campus community in the Dyson Baudo Recreation Center. We had 72 asymptomatic students and employees volunteer for testing, which helps provide a snapshot of our community health regarding COVID-19. Locally, Washington County is averaging 14 new cases per day, and Wood County, West Virginia, is averaging 26 new cases per day. Despite the local community’s upward trend, Marietta College has been able to trend in a better direction with regards to new cases. You can monitor Marietta College’s daily numbers through our site — www.marietta.edu/covid-19-cases-reporting.
Even though the enhanced physical distancing policy will loosen starting tomorrow, I want to reiterate some of what we have learned over the past two weeks and to share how we will manage COVID-related quarantines and isolations before winter break.
We know that the campus has had pockets of COVID-19 and subsequent quarantined groups pop up when students were not directly supervised by College employees or advisors, including out-of-class group project work, student organization activities, residence hall interactions, interactions with people outside the campus community (including trips home, having visitors on campus, commuter student encounters in the local community) and certain activities associated with team sports. The team sports item is particularly challenging to decipher because it is unclear whether the spread of illness in these pockets occurred as the result of supervised team activities or because team members engaged with one another socially and/or for the purpose of unsupervised sports activities. It is clear, however, that the decisions that students have made or have been asked to make about their activities outside supervised and structured environments have had an impact on the spread of COVID-19 in the student body.
What this means is that all of us — students and employees — need to be extremely conscientious every day moving forward about the decisions we are making that will shape student interactions outside of supervised and structured environments. It is imperative that students limit — and be allowed to limit — their social bubble to the greatest degree possible as we resume less restrictive campus activity. We know that the current restrictions take a toll on students’ mental and physical health, and we encourage students to safely interact with other students — but do so outdoors, if possible, or in larger areas indoors and properly wear your facemasks and maintain a safe physical distance.
As we get closer to our goal of successfully completing this semester, students need to be aware that anyone who is directed into quarantine or isolation between November 11th through November 24th, will be handled on a case-by-case basis. We will likely encourage students to return home so they will not have to spend any part of the winter break in quarantine or isolation on campus. However, if you have extenuating circumstances, the College will make accommodations for your care. The Marietta-Belpre Health Department does not allow a student to change their location mid-quarantine or mid-isolation. While we would like for these to be fixed dates, please know that the College will work with each student on a case-by-case basis to help them.
We are in the final month of this semester, and we have less than three weeks before Winter Break begins. I encourage you all to continue making special connections and memories this semester — but to also be mindful of the implications of your actions and inactions.
Work hard, have fun and be safe.
Bring Forth a Pioneer!
President and Professor of Management