President’s Update: In-person activities continue; Clemson researchers making a difference in COVID fight

October 2, 2020

Happy Solid Orange Friday!

Our second week of in-person instruction wraps up today, and we continue to be encouraged by our return to campus. Approximately 400 instructors offered in-person instruction this week, and that number will continue to grow as the semester progresses.

Our students continue to do a good job adhering to the health and safety protocols we have instituted. Still, as expected, we have seen an increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases among our students with the return to on-campus living two weeks ago.

So far, however, the increase has been manageable, and we continue to have sufficient quarantine and isolation space. Our COVID-19 testing dashboard is now being updated twice a week, and the latest data can be found here. Also, please note that we have had no known hospitalizations related to COVID-19.

Football weekend brings excitement, another chance to shine

Our top-ranked Tigers football team returns to Death Valley tomorrow night against Virginia for our second home football game of the season. Our home opener was a success, both on the field and in terms of our ability to offer a safe, fan friendly experience thanks to the great work of our Athletics organization.

As we prepare to welcome approximately 19,000 fans to tomorrow’s game I wanted to take just a moment to remind all those planning to attend the game of the enhanced health precautions we have put into place for game days. And, to our students who will be tempted to gather with friends to watch the game on television, I ask that you all be mindful to wear face coverings and practice social distancing.

Research Spotlight: Building saliva-based COVID-19 testing capacity at Clemson

As we’ve learned, the ability to test large numbers of individuals for COVID-19 on a regular basis, and get results back promptly, is crucial to any successful strategy to track and mitigate the spread of the disease. Saliva-based testing, which is less invasive and far less expensive than the deep nasal swab testing, increasingly is being seen as an important testing tool.

Clemson’s work in this area has been led by one of our faculty stars, Dr. Delphine Dean in our bioengineering department. Dr. Dean, working with colleagues from the University of South Carolina and the Medical University of South Carolina over the summer, has developed a highly accurate and inexpensive saliva-based COVID-19 test. The University also has set up its first high-complexity clinical testing lab to process the test results, with considerable assistance from another of our outstanding engineering faculty members, Dr. Mark Blenner.

The lab just completed its first week of operations and we are aiming to scale up capacity considerably over the next month. We expect this lab to contribute significantly to our testing efforts and hope we also eventually can help support community testing needs. This lab also will be a valuable research and training asset for the University and help us become even more competitive for research grants.

We continue to see increased activity across our locations and are starting to settle into a new routine that includes dealing with the realities of COVID-19 as part of our daily lives. The next week or two, however, will be especially important in our effort to keep the number of COVID-19 cases to a manageable level.

Still, the hard work of our staff and faculty over these past several months has positioned us to have a successful fall semester. I am deeply appreciative for everyone who has contributed to our COVID-19 response, including our students who have shown themselves to be highly responsible so far this semester.

Go Tigers!

Clemson University's 15th president, James P. Clements