Dear W&J Students,
I am sure you are all aware that the last few weeks have seen a dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 cases across the nation and in our region. In July alone, nearly 1.9 million new infections were recorded nationwide, constituting 42 percent of all cases reported since the pandemic began and more than double the number reported in any other month to date. At the same time, young adults are now the fastest growing category of new cases, including in the Pittsburgh region where people 18 to 24 years old have accounted for about 30 percent of new cases in recent weeks.
These trends were unforeseen at the time we developed our plans for reopening campus, always with your health and safety at the forefront of every decision. Therefore, I am writing today to announce that we are altering our plans in several significant ways to further mitigate the risk of contagion in the current public health environment. As you prepare for fall semester, it is very important that you familiarize yourself with these changes, which include the following:
Testing and Quarantine: If you choose to reside on campus, you will be administered an initial COVID-19 PCR test upon arrival, provided through our partnership with Quest Diagnostics. This will be followed by a 10-day period of quarantine, during which time you will learn the results of this test and begin your coursework online. A second COVID-19 test will then be administered to identify any cases that may have resulted from exposure immediately prior to coming to campus, though we are trusting you will follow our guidance to self-quarantine for a period of time prior to leaving home.
Single-Occupancy Rooms: Like many other colleges and universities, we have determined that it is necessary for each student to reside in a private room. This is the recommendation of CDC, which classifies our usual double-occupancy rooms as the “highest risk” housing arrangement during the pandemic. This change will also help us reduce campus density and decrease the number of students sharing a restroom. Because of these changes, those who plan to live on campus should watch for information very soon on how to request in individual room assignment.
New Move-In Schedule and Start Date: To allow time to make the adjustments described above, classes will begin on Monday, August 24, rather than August 17 as previously announced. You will soon receive updated information on the move-in schedule, which will stage arrivals over a more extended period than usual.
To protect your health, the campus experience will necessarily differ from a normal fall semester in many ways, but rest assured that we are fully committed to providing every opportunity for you to take full advantage of in-person learning, student activities, academic support, career services, health and counseling support, and other distinctive elements of the W&J experience. For those who opt for remote learning, please know that our faculty have worked throughout the summer to strengthen online teaching techniques and take full advantage of the college’s substantial investment in new learning technology, and also that you will be fully supported by all of the services needed to ensure your success, from the Clark Family Library and the Health & Counseling Center to the offices of Student Life to Career Services.
Again, I encourage you to pay close attention to additional communications from the college today and tomorrow. These latest changes involved difficult decisions, and I am grateful for the input of all members of the COVID Response Team and its subcommittees, the Faculty Executive Committee, the Board of Trustees Executive Committee, and leaders of our Student Government Association, many of whom have devoted countless hours in recent months to preparing for a safe return to campus. I continue to have great confidence in the dedication, flexibility, and optimistic spirit of the W&J community as we support each other through unprecedented times.
Please look for more detailed information this afternoon in a message from Dean Eva, and please check the reopening webpage regularly for updates.
With deep appreciation for each of you,
John C. Knapp, Ph.D.
President and Professor