Dear Clemson Family:
We are completing our third week of in-person instruction and on-campus activities and continue to make good progress in our efforts to successfully complete the fall semester. I am extremely proud of our faculty, staff and students all of whom have worked hard to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the university community.
As with many universities, we have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases in the weeks since bringing our students back to campus. The overall rate of infection among our students, however, has fallen in the past week. I’m also pleased to report that we continue to have no known hospitalizations as result of the virus.
Our testing strategy – unlike that at many universities – is designed to seek out asymptomatic individuals with the virus so that we can promptly isolate or quarantine them to control the spread of COVID-19. As a result, while the number of cases reported remains somewhat high, we have good intelligence on the progression of the virus and have been able to stay ahead of it. Updated information on the number of positive cases and students in quarantine or isolation can be found at our COVID-19 testing dashboard.
In keeping with that approach, the University continues to fine-tune its student testing, and starting next week will begin testing all on-campus residents on a weekly basis – in addition to conducting random testing of off-campus residents. While this is a bit of an inconvenience to our students, please know that we have moved away from the more invasive deep nasal testing to other methods.
Also, this approach to testing is a vital part of our work to complete the fall semester, and I want to personally thank our students who have shown great flexibility as our testing plans have evolved. Your participation in our testing has been invaluable.
One byproduct of our aggressive testing strategy, which has been praised by Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Pandemic Task Force, has been the need to quarantine or isolate our on-campus resident students who have been infected or exposed to COVID-19. We currently have approximately 290 students in quarantine or isolation space specifically set aside for that purpose. Additionally, another 240 students are quarantining or isolating in their private or semi-private residence hall rooms.
This has been a daunting task for our Clemson Home team, which has the responsibility to ensure that we take good care of our students who need to be quarantined or isolated. We’ve had a few bumps in the road over the past couple weeks, but the team has risen to the occasion with the help of volunteers across campus, and I am very proud of their work on this issue. Additionally, our Emergency Operations Center has focused solely in recent weeks on doing whatever it takes to make sure these students get the best possible care and treatment during what is a very stressful time for them.
Clemson’s Extension offices serve as the University’s front door to residents across South Carolina, with agents helping individuals in every county of the state. Due to the pandemic, our Extension offices have been closed to in-person operations since March, but our agents have never stopped working on behalf of the state’s residents.
Our agents took to the phones and went online to provide the kind of services our farmers and individuals expect from Clemson Extension: from April through August, the Horticulture program’s Home and Garden Information Center had a 116 percent increase in website traffic for hgic.clemson.edu, an 85 percent increase in emails answered and a 43 percent increase in phone calls answered.
Although the Clemson Extension team has remained busy throughout the pandemic, in-person services are at the heart of our Extension mission, so I’m delighted to report that we have established a phased plan to return to more normal operations. Based on weekly, county-by-county data from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, Extension offices will reopen in stages. Service is at the heart of Clemson’s land-grant mission, and I could not be more proud of the Extension team for its commitment and innovation during the pandemic.
Although our students and employees continue, for the most part, to exercise good judgment when it comes to the common-sense safety measures associated with COVID-19, now is not the time to let our guard down. I want to remind everyone that face coverings are mandatory while indoors on campus and while outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible. Likewise, the City of Clemson has extended its face covering requirement until late December, so our students need to continue to do their part to be good citizens and abide by the city’s rules.
Finally, we have another home football game this weekend and I want to encourage all our guests to campus and the city this weekend to do their part to keep our students and community residents safe. In many ways, our football safety protocols have become a national model and have shown it is possible to play football with fans in the stands – let’s keep it that way!
As always, our success relies on the hard work and support of countless individuals. My deepest appreciation goes out to our faculty and staff for their steadfast commitment to this University and to our students. We also are grateful to all our donors and supporters across the nation who help make this work possible.