Dear OSU faculty and staff,
As the university proceeds to gradually increase onsite activities in the weeks ahead to support summer programs and fall term, we want to assure you we are tracking the increased prevalence of COVID-19 cases across the country, as well as localized outbreaks on college and university campuses. Like you, we see disconcerting trends in states and regions that reopened quickly and, in some cases, with only limited public health measures.
We believe the public health measures we are taking at OSU to minimize density through remote work and instruction, wear face coverings, create appropriate physical distancing, wash hands regularly, implement contact tracing, and follow isolation and quarantine protocols will be effective as we slowly resume onsite activity. In some cases, the outbreaks observed elsewhere have been contained utilizing these kinds of measures. Over the next month, we will observe how colleges and universities operating on semesters and returning to campus in early to mid-August finalize their plans. As those institutions decide whether and how to resume onsite activity, we will have the opportunity to apply their lessons to our own strategies.
We know that in-person engagement and activity is very important for student learning and success, carrying out high quality research and innovation, and serving our communities through Extension and engagement. As such, we have a mission-centered obligation to consider every possible strategy to return to a level of onsite activity that will facilitate delivering our mission while also striving to preserve and protect the health of the OSU community and the communities in which we operate.
At this time, and in consultation with county and state health authorities, we continue to believe our current plan to implement low density, mixed modality instruction and activities, facilitated with the public health measures noted above, is a sound approach. Yet, we recognize that we may need to alter our plan if the course of the virus changes in Oregon or experience elsewhere advises a different strategy. OSU’s Resumption Plan (PDF) is designed to be flexible and anticipates the possible need for adjustments.
As we consider how to ramp up onsite activity, our principle guides will be indicators on the infection itself, as well as the readiness and capacity of the university and local counties to effectively respond to outbreaks through rapid testing of symptomatic and close contact cases, support county health authorities with contact case investigations, and isolate and contain cases. We anticipate that by the middle of August, we will have a much better sense of the precise level of onsite activity that will be viable for fall term. However, if pandemic spikes and cases in Oregon, our neighboring states, and among many peer universities get much worse, we are prepared to act sooner regarding the precise level of onsite activity for the fall term.
We know the uncertainty this pandemic is introducing is challenging for those preparing fall courses, developing research plans and planning engagement activities. But we believe it is critical that we continue to proceed cautiously, listen to and align with local and state public health authorities, and consider the many impacts of each decision we make.
In the coming days, we will provide you with more information on our resumption plan and associated public health measures, and we will provide regular updates through the summer. As always, we welcome your feedback, questions and advice as we navigate this challenge.
F. King Alexander
Provost and Executive Vice President