Update on COVID-19 Cases and Environment Level

To: W&L Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents
From: The COVID-19 Committee
Date: Monday, October 1

Over the past week and a half, and particularly over the past few days, we've seen a concerning rise in new COVID-19 cases among our students. While this isn't the first time we've seen our case count rise, what makes this time different is the increase in community transmission that can't be linked to known cases.

In addition to the rise in what appear to be unrelated cases, most of the students who recently tested positive had many close contacts, resulting in significant contact tracing and isolation and quarantine (I/Q) needs. And while we've been incredibly fortunate that our students who have become sick with COVID-19 have experienced relatively mild symptoms, we're finding that transmission is happening among students who aren't paying close attention to - or reporting - symptoms that they may not have realized were COVID-related, such as nasal congestion, headache, cough or sore throat.

The COVID-19 Committee evaluates W&L's COVID-19 Environment Level several times each week. Changes in the situation on our campus, as well as in the surrounding community, have led us to recommend to President Dudley, who in turn approved, a move of W&L's COVID-19 Environment Level from yellow-middle to yellow-high. Today, the indicator is being moved for the following reasons:

  • Increase in community transmission that can't be linked to known cases
  • Increase in pressure on the university's Isolation/Quarantine (I/Q), contact tracing, and dining services capacity
  • Lack of compliance with social distancing and face covering requirements
  • Drop in student compliance with the Daily Attestation to approximately 60%
  • Increase in pressure on local and regional hospital capacity

While we're disappointed to have to move the Environment Level to yellow-high, we're hopeful that if we work together and take the necessary precautions, we can help slow the spread on campus. In order to do so, each of us must do the following:

  • Be vigilant about keeping a distance of at least six feet from one another at all times, in all locations, indoors and out.
  • Wear face coverings at all gatherings, at all times, unless you are outdoors, stationary, and more than six feet apart.
  • Limit your number of close contacts.
  • Pay attention to and report any symptoms, even those that those that are mild and may seem like allergies.
  • Complete your Daily Attestation each day, answer yes if you are experiencing any symptoms, and follow the instructions if you answer yes.

We appreciate the enormous efforts and sacrifices our students, faculty and staff have made to date. Unfortunately, this virus has proven to be a formidable foe, and without absolute vigilance around masking and distancing, it will continue to spread. Let's all make a collective effort to mask up and spread out. We're all in this together, and together we can make a difference!