Letter from the Chancellor: September 2, 2020
Dear U of A community:
As everyone should know by now, we are in a public health emergency that requires we look out for each other. And it’s imperative that we act accordingly: Wear face coverings. Wash hands. Physically distance yourself from others. Avoid crowds. And if you think you have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, you need to quarantine and get tested ASAP. If you test positive, then isolate yourself. If you test positive off campus, then self-report (This is required for all.) and self-isolate. These are the things we know will keep us safe and the virus from spreading.
Unfortunately, the growing number of university-affiliated cases suggests too many people still aren’t taking the virus seriously by taking the necessary precautions. I find this deeply concerning, especially as we receive emails from students who fear for their safety. Regarding the recent spike, one student wrote us, “This is absolutely terrifying for me and any other student who has immunocompromised family members or [may be immunocompromised] themselves."
No one should have to feel this way because others don’t want to be inconvenienced by safety precautions.
What do you need to do? Set a good example with your behavior. Hold each other accountable by reporting risky behavior to Report.uark.edu. We want to hear your concerns, and we will follow up on them. You also need to listen to the experts — not friends, family, colleagues or strangers on social media who may be well intentioned but are nevertheless trafficking in rumors. We’ve heard anecdotal reports that students are being encouraged to get tested at private hospitals off campus (or worse, not get tested at all) in hopes it won’t be reported to the university, perhaps because these students fear they will be sent home.
The truth is we don’t want to send you home. We would rather find you a place to quarantine on campus or an apartment if that’s the best option. We want to take care of you. Also, these cases will be reported to campus eventually, so trying to hide your affiliation with the university only increases the potential danger to others. This is not the time for keeping secrets. This is the time to do the right thing.
We are deeply concerned about the health and safety of our students, our faculty and our staff, and we are monitoring the situation with great care. Many people want to know what our threshold for pivoting to 100% remote classes. We don’t have a specific trigger point. Instead, we’re tracking a number of variables, including the positivity rate on campus and in the community, as well as the status of our health system, which is categorized as “available” currently. I know people don’t like to read long emails, so I highly encourage you to stay abreast of the latest information here. You can also find the latest update on testing on our dashboard, but understand that many of these cases may have been contracted elsewhere. And most of those who are isolating or are in quarantine are doing so off campus.
The U of A and the Arkansas Department of Health are holding free drive-thru COVID-19 testing across from Baum-Walker Stadium at the corner of S. Razorback Road and 15th Street from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, September 2-3. Students who have symptoms and known exposures will be prioritized. A student ID is required.
Finally, this Friday at 10 a.m. interim provost and vice chancellor for student and academic affairs Charles Robinson will be hosting a virtual panel we’re calling: “Fall Forum: Coping with COVID-19.” Panelists will include medical experts from the Arkansas Department of Health and Pat Walker Health Center as well as senior university administrators who are up to date on the latest information. I encourage you to register to attend and learn more about what’s going on and get your questions answered by experts.
Again, this is a public health emergency. I implore you to be caring, be accountable and be part of the solution.
Joe Steinmetz, Ph.D.