June 3, 2020
Dear West Virginia University Community,
I cannot begin to express how proud I am of the efforts and contributions you have made as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. I realize that moving to remote instruction and relocating offices to our home environment has had its challenges, but we met them with an unwavering spirit of determination.
For the past two months, many working groups across our system have been developing plans to ensure we can safely return to in-person instruction on our West Virginia University campuses. As this work has been undertaken, the safety of our faculty, staff, students and community has been our highest priority.
However, before we review our next steps, I want to discuss personal accountability – and why this is so important.
West Virginia and its citizens have done a remarkable job of keeping incidents of COVID-19 low. West Virginia University partnered with the State at the beginning of the crisis. At the request of Gov. Jim Justice, our Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences, Dr. Clay Marsh, served as the Coronavirus Czar for West Virginia. We worked together to make informed decisions that led to quick action.
We were early in enacting a stay-at-home order to inhibit the spread. Our teams assisted in helping healthcare providers be prepared with critical personal protective equipment and other items should a surge occur. Our communities and the University came together to create much-needed supplies including cloth masks, hand sanitizer and face shields. And our researchers continue to work on projects that could identify potential symptoms of COVID-19 early, as well as additional testing capabilities.
It is because of this leadership that our state has maintained a lower number of positive cases, allowing businesses to reopen under specific guidelines. West Virginians are doing their part by wearing masks and staying home to lessen the crisis in their communities. That essence of resilience and sense of community has never been stronger.
Personal accountability is key to keeping our campus open this fall. Our Mountaineer Values – Service, Curiosity, Respect, Accountability and Appreciation – must guide us to make good choices that benefit our community at-large.
While we have seen the reports that younger people are at less risk to become seriously ill from COVID-19, that does not mean we can be cavalier in our actions. We must be responsible not only for ourselves, but for each other. To do less would not be a reflection of who we are. I expect each of us to follow the protocols and guidelines to keep our entire West Virginia University community safe.
There is much work to be done as we approach the summer months. I ask that you keep informed by reading the upcoming weekly communications, participating in Return to Campus Conversations and frequently checking the Return to Campus website, which will be updated on Monday, June 8. You also may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, please remember this is new territory. We may not always have all the answers. Be mindful that public health conditions may change that would redirect our work. Be patient with each other. And together, we will create the best fall experience for our faculty, staff and students.
E. Gordon Gee