COVID-19 has devastated the families and friends of more than 135,000 Americans. It is difficult to process the magnitude of the loss. Some ask a qualifying question, “How old was he?” or “Did she have underlying conditions?” Valid questions, but the truth of the matter is our friends and family would be with us today, sharing stories, imparting wisdom, engaging us, had COVID-19 not invaded their being. Personally, I have been touched by 11 fatalities, three of whom were friends, the others colleagues, and one my mentor. This is real and dangerous.
In March, your Salem Community College moved to remote instruction to safeguard the students, faculty and staff. We admirably converted everything within days. Nationally, getting through the first few weeks of the Stay-At-Home order was quite manageable and almost enjoyable. As time passed, the novelty wore. Across the nation, protests emerged demanding we “reopen” the economy. The outcry was genuine and often hostile. However, no governor wants to have a “closed” state. None awakened in the morning with aspirations of closing (and jeopardizing) restaurants, gyms, bars, stores, etc., for an extended time. No one. And the arguments that we are losing more people due to depression-related issues during the Stay-At-Home order has no statistical viability. Not to negate the depression that has overtaken all too many, but it is not equivalent to our COVID losses.
Currently, the disease is growing in more than half the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Positive test results are up, hospitalizations are escalating (the most- important-of-all statistics), and within the next two weeks, predictably, we will see fatalities rise.
Your Salem Community College is going to restart and we are going to do it right. Any instruction that can be done remotely or online, will be. Coursework requiring in-person lab or studio access will be on campus with significant safeguards. These are primarily Glass, Nursing, select Sciences, and specific Art courses. Lectures associated with these courses may still be delivered remotely.
Masks are the uniform of the day. Wear one and wear it properly. A mask should cover your nose and mouth. It is not a chinstrap, or an ear ornament. By wearing a mask, you are safeguarding others including me. You may be carrying with no overt symptoms. Save my life.
Wash your hands. It is amazing that we have to even say something of that nature, but wash your hands as often as possible. Stay distant. We are arranging our facilities to limit proximity. By staying distant, you are staying safe. Youth is not immunity. Young people are being afflicted at an alarming rate, and thereby endangering the rest of us.
We may only get one shot at preventing COVID. Let’s abide by the rules and guidelines – mask, distance, and wash. Pretty simple to remember.