Need to Know: February 2021
Feb. 1, 2021
Greetings, Andrews University friends,
It is hard to believe that it’s been just over one year since our colleague, Frances Faehner, vice president for Campus & Student Life, sent out a Campus Health Notice on Jan. 29, 2020, about a worrisome outbreak of pneumonia connected with a previously unknown strain of coronavirus in China. The letter included the detail that “... (there are currently) five confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV … identified in the United States, and two in Canada.”
Reading those numbers after a year has passed illustrates the global spread and impact of the COVID-19 virus, and they are truly unfathomable and profoundly heartbreaking to consider. The United States now has more than 26 million confirmed cases, with more than 440,000 deaths currently. In Canada, there are now more than 775,000 cases and more than 20,000 deaths.
Overall, there are now more than 102 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, with more than 2 million deaths from the disease.
But even as we are sobered and overwhelmed by those challenging statistics and the continued threat of COVID-19, there is also hope for this current challenging journey for our world and for us right here within our own Andrews University family.
In this February edition of Need to Know we’ll share updates on COVID-19 vaccinations, May graduation plans, new resources on our World Changers for a changing world website and more.
As president and provost of Andrews University, we are both profoundly grateful for the ongoing daily commitment that our students, faculty, staff, families and friends continue to make. You are truly World Changers for this pandemic-troubled world.
Andrews University and ultimately our world are and will be a stronger, safer place thanks to each one of you.
COVID-19 vaccinations begin in Berrien County
In early January we shared an update with our campus community on COVID-19 vaccination plans for Berrien County, where our main Berrien Springs campus is located.
As the letter noted, the timeline for COVID-19 vaccinations for our Andrews University community will be based both on the overall vaccination phases for the state of Michigan as well as the specific vaccination supplies available here in Berrien County.
As we have done over the last year, we will continue to work closely with the Berrien County Health Department (BCHD) to understand and mitigate the risk of this pandemic. The Health Department now has a dedicated website on COVID-19 vaccination plans for our community. You can also sign up for a BCHD vaccination newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on county vaccination plans.
Currently, there are limited COVID-19 vaccination supplies in the county, and the vaccination efforts are focusing first on residents who are 65 and older, healthcare workers and essential employees, and those vaccinations will be administered in phases as vaccines become available.
Our Andrews University family includes individuals representing each of those categories currently being vaccinated by the county, and some of our students and employees have already received at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The current phase, Phase 1B, of BCHD-coordinated vaccinations will specifically target “essential employees,” as defined by federal guidelines. A number of Andrews University students, faculty and staff will qualify as “essential employees” under federal guidelines and will be notified to register for COVID-19 vaccinations during this phase.
For those in our community who will not receive COVID-19 vaccinations in these initial phases, COVID-19 vaccinations are expected to be available in the latter half of spring semester.
We will continue to share details on those plans with our entire Andrews University community, including how to register for and receive the free COVID-19 vaccination. Again, you can review some of the current details here.
Andrews University does recommend and strongly encourage all employees and students to seriously consider receiving a vaccination.
We also want to share one additional resource to better understand COVID-19 vaccinations. Last week, our Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry hosted an online presentation by Kizzmekia Shanta Corbett, PhD, a senior research fellow and team lead for coronavirus research within the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the Vaccine Research Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. You can watch her presentation, which includes insights on the research into and the safety and effectiveness of various coronavirus vaccines, here.
Even with vaccinations, our Community Covenant of Care remains essential
As our campus begins to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in the weeks and months to come, COVID-19 mitigation and safety measures will likely remain essential for our community and our world throughout much of the remainder of 2021, even as more people are vaccinated worldwide.
On our campus, those mitigation measures, which are outlined in our shared Community Covenant of Care, include consistently masking up when indoors (or near others outdoors), using #CampusClear daily, maintaining physical distance, washing hands frequently, and continuing to limit your exposure to others who aren’t roommates or immediate family members.
It’s also important to carefully monitor your safety and exposure when off-campus. Most of the COVID-19 cases in recent months within our Andrews University community have emerged from off-campus activities and exposure from informal social and group gatherings on campus where COVID-19 safety protocols were not followed.
Andrews University announces plans for Spring Graduation
While complete details will be shared over the next few weeks with our Andrews University graduates, we are happy to let you know that Andrews University has made plans to carefully conduct minimal, but in-person, graduation ceremonies for students who are eligible to participate in spring graduation, May 7–9, 2021. These May graduation ceremonies will specifically be for graduates who are currently enrolled in face-to-face classes or who are cleared to be on our Berrien Springs campus this spring semester.
Please note that there will be no guests permitted on campus for these ceremonies. However, livestreams of the various ceremonies will be available for family and friends, and the larger community, who will be cheering on these graduates.
This decision for a minimal approach to in-person graduation services has been made in the context of COVID-19 safety protocols, as set out by the CDC and the Andrews University COVID-19 Safety Plan. Those protocols will still be in effect for spring graduation ceremonies on our Berrien Springs campus.
Once again, please note that graduates who are not currently enrolled and studying in face-to-face classes this spring semester or who have not been cleared to be on the Berrien Springs campus this semester will not be permitted to travel to campus for these ceremonies. Also, guests will not be permitted on campus to attend these ceremonies.
Ongoing updates for this spring’s graduation, including information on how families and friends can watch and take part online, will be provided on the University’s spring 2021 graduation website.
Updates on COVID-19 baseline testing at Andrews University
During our two weeks of baseline COVID-19 testing at the beginning of spring semester, 2,662 tests were given to employees, students (University and Andrews Academy) and visiting students, including those from Berrien RESA (Regional Education Service Agency).
The total of positive cases resulting from this baseline testing was 40. This means that the positivity rate among our employees was 1.25 percent and Andrews students had a positivity rate of 1.66 percent. As a result, our overall total positivity rate was 1.5 percent—a rate well below the 9 to 10 percent positivity rate in Berrien County and the state of Michigan at that time. You can find more details about those baseline tests in our Jan. 19 letter to the campus community here.
Also, please note that many of the 40 cases identified in this spring semester baseline testing were asymptomatic at the time the test was administered. This means that without the testing and isolation/quarantine procedures currently in place on our campus, we would have faced far quicker spread and risks of infection in our community. This spring semester there are 63 positive cases identified in baseline and recurring testing, with six (6) current active isolation cases as of Jan. 31.
Once again, thanks to our entire Andrews University community for its continued commitment to keeping the campus safe through appropriate testing, daily use of #CampusClear, wearing face coverings to cover your mouth and nose, frequently washing your hands, and, of course, continuing to keep six feet/two meters of physical distance between you and others in a group, whether you are inside or out.
A quick update on spring semester enrollment
Last week was Census Day for spring semester, which is when Andrews University measures its enrollment on, or through, its Berrien Springs campus.
As you’ve no doubt heard, the 2020–2021 school year and the global COVID-19 pandemic have been challenging for universities and colleges in the United States and around the world, with student enrollment decreasing at most institutions. With that in mind we set our 2020–2021 budget based on a 5 percent credit drop from last year. Our budget target for spring semester enrollment is also always set at a 3–3.5 percent drop from the fall due to December graduations.
Our official spring census of 3,080 enrolled students enrolled through our Berrien Springs campus aligns with these budgetary goals.
Where to turn for essential Andrews University COVID-19 resources
As we’ve shared over the last year of communication on the global COVID-19 pandemic and Andrews University, we wish to always be transparent and proactive in sharing the direct impact of COVID-19 on our campus community.
This includes sharing key resources and guides that will help you better understand and effectively respond to the risks of COVID-19.
Those resources include an online COVID-19 dashboard which includes information on both baseline and recurrent testing this spring semester. You can also find a link to an archive of the fall 2020 Andrews University COVID-19 Dashboard results.
Our overall World Changers for a changing world website also includes a number of other key COVID-19 resources, including some new resources this semester. Those include our University’s Case Management Guide, which outlines how we’ll respond to COVID-19 symptoms and diagnoses. You’ll also find a COVID-19 Vaccination Information page on the website.
Another significant resource we want to highlight is one that shares the steps we can take to help care for each other and meet the needs of our community at this time.
Some of those needs are for our neighbors throughout southwest Michigan and around the world, but often the needs during this pandemic are found within our own community. If you’d like to reach out and help our neighbors, or especially if you’re a student who needs extra help and support at this time, please review the resources on this website. If you’re a student or student family who needs help, please review the “Aid & Assistance” column on the right side of that page.
Our unexpected global and campus journeys in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic continue.
But in stories and experiences across our community, large and small, we are both impressed with how this Andrews University family, this committed and passionate community, continues to forge and find the best ways forward in present circumstances. Once again, the safety protocols and precautions we’ll take in the weeks and months ahead will be essential even as we welcome the arrival of effective COVID-19 vaccinations for our community in the weeks to come.
We want to end this issue of Need to Know by recalling the theme of a letter shared with our Andrews University family earlier this month which suggested that we can and should embrace 2021 “with optimism, faith and hope while inviting God’s presence among us.”
God’s presence and influence on Andrews University, His school, and your commitment to this University we call home are also essential qualities for the optimism, faith and hope we will embrace for the journey ahead.
As always, may God’s love and protection surround each one of you and our world in these challenging, yet also hope-filled, times.
Finally and always, may God continue to bless you as this new year unfolds.
Image credits: Lead photo by Donnie Keele, dean of men, Andrews University (photo assistant: Rachel Keele, interim manager, Andreasen Center for Wellness); other images from canva.com