Dear Sweet Briar Women,
The week has started with the grave news that the third, and possibly the deadliest, surge of coronavirus pandemic has firmly taken hold in the country. Many infectious diseases experts agree that the next six to twelve weeks will be the most difficult period in the pandemic. By the end of the year, we could see some 400,000 dead, up from the current accumulated total of 220,000, and increasingly victims will include young adults in their twenties and thirties. There are three reasons for the surge: infections are rising, people are tired of compliance, and the cold weather keeps them indoors.
You have supported each other to keep our community safe. You have surpassed all expectations in your vigilance and duty to yourself, your family and others; and I am most proud of you. At the same time, I know you will not let the safety of this campus – and the fact that the current surge is raging across the Midwest and West, and less so in the Commonwealth – lull you into complacency. It takes but one “super-spreader,” or one “super-spreader” gathering, to take us all down.
The examples are many of the colleges and universities that have struggled with the sudden spread, even with frequent and regular tests of an asymptomatic population. I am reminded of a recent case, the State University of New York at Oneonta, which had but two cases of infection in late August. By last week, the University had 700 students test positive. It can happen fast – and it can happen to us.
Please stay the course and do not let your guard down. Even as it gets colder outside, and daylight shortens, I would urge you to bundle up and continue to take advantage of what we have in abundance: fresh air, trees, greens, long and wonderful walks and trails. When you decided to attend Sweet Briar, you were getting it lock, stock, and barrel: not just a good education and good company, but the remarkable clemency of weather in the Commonwealth. You are in the Virginia Piedmont – please enjoy it.
And I would be remiss in not saying this: try to stay on campus in the next four weekends before you head home for a very long winter break. Gatherings of families and friends will be a challenge that will test your discipline and restraint, but I trust you will continue to be wise in protecting your loved ones.
Take care of yourself,