Need to Know: March 2021
March 11, 2021
Greetings, Andrews University friends,
One year ago today we sent out a letter announcing Andrews University's decision to switch to remote learning, a decision made one day after Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced a state of emergency for the state of Michigan and the same day that she spoke directly with presidents of the independent colleges and universities in Michigan about this decision.
As we wrote last month, it's amazing and sobering to reflect on the impact of that journey—worldwide, there are now nearly 118 million confirmed cases and more than 2.6 million deaths; in the United States, there are more than 29 million confirmed cases and more than 525,000 deaths. On our own campus, we have been blessed with a low percentage and number of positive COVID-19 cases; following nearly 3,500 tests administered during fall semester, there were 101 positive cases, or a positivity rate of 2.8 percent.
So far, with more than 2,800 tests administered to date this spring semester, there have been 73 positive cases following baseline and surveillance testing, or a positivity rate of 2.6 percent. Overall, Michigan has a positivity rate of 5 percent as of March 10, 2021. Best of all, since the beginning of March there has only been one new positive case recorded in the daily COVID-19 updates for our campus.
In this March edition of Need to Know we’ll share additional updates on COVID-19 vaccinations, May graduation plans, and a reminder that keeping ourselves and each other safe is essential right now—especially with the growth of COVID-19 variants in the United States.
UPDATE: COVID-19 vaccination phases and plans in Berrien County
We're continuing to carefully monitor the COVID-19 vaccination plans set out by the Berrien County Health Department (BCHD).
As of March 3, the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services has “set an initial operational goal of vaccinating 70% of people aged 16 years of age and older, or about 5.6 million people, for COVID-19 by the end of 2021.”
Beginning March 8, the state and Berrien County have focused on providing vaccinations to those who are 50 years old and older (as well as offering vaccinations to parents of children with special healthcare needs). In May, vaccinations for those aged 16 to 49 with disabilities and pre-existing conditions will begin; vaccinations for all others aged 16 to 49 are scheduled to begin in June.
We will continue to work closely with the BCHD to understand and mitigate the risk of this COVID-19 pandemic. As we shared earlier, the BCHD 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.
For updates on Andrews University vaccination plans, you can find a complete set of details and updates here. That page also offers an opportunity to formally self report and record your COVID-19 vaccination once you’ve received it.
As we've shared before, while the COVID-19 vaccination will not be required, Andrews University does recommend and strongly encourage all employees and students to seriously consider receiving a vaccination.
Additional updates on spring graduation
As we shared in this newsletter last month, 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.
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. Based on current understandings of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, these protocols will still be in effect for spring graduation ceremonies on our Berrien Springs campus.
Commencement services will be scheduled throughout the May 7–9 weekend, with a service for the College of Health & Human Services on Friday, May 7; a service for the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary on Saturday, May 8, and services for the College of Education & International Services, College of Professions and College of Arts & Sciences on Sunday, May 9. You can review the entire graduation weekend schedule, including Sabbath’s Baccalaureate Service in Pioneer Memorial Church with Wintley Phipps, here.
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.
Act Like Andy! Shared commitment to keeping each other safe
As we noted earlier in this message, as our Andrews University community continues to navigate this COVID-19 world, we want to remember that we're all in this together (including Andy!). Even with the promise of vaccinations available to our entire community by spring or fall 2021, right now we want to encourage each one of you to continue to wash your hands regularly and wear your masks.
Also, when it comes to physical distancing guidelines, please remember that it's especially important to continue to minimize your social gatherings in the residence halls, dining services (especially be sure to keep your distance when you eat together, and please be sure to not share your meals with others), the Campus Center and anywhere else two (or more) of you may gather.
Thanks for your continued commitment as we all work to keep our community, each other, and ourselves safe. For more information on the best practices for COVID-19 safety and protection, we encourage you to review our shared Community Covenant of Care and the Andrews University COVID-19 Safety Plan.
As we mark the one-year anniversary of when the COVID-19 pandemic directly impacted our University, we're grateful to each one of you who make up our committed community of World Changers, individuals who see how we care for and protect each other as essential values for us to embrace as God’s children—now more than ever.
As vaccinations provide the potential for relief from this pandemic, we look forward with hope and fervently claim God’s promises for protection and care as we move into the final weeks of this 2020–2021 school year here on the main campus of Andrews University.
Image credits: Spring and vaccinations images, canva.com; President Andrea Luxton, graduation, Darren Heslop; “Act Like Andy” graphic, Justin Jeffery (original image, Darren Heslop)