Snow false alarm?

Well, we did not wake up to an inch or two of snow (as had been predicted earlier this week). We have had periods of big, chunky snow flurries, but so far nothing sticking. As I look out of my dining room windows, I can see a little bit of ice forming on branches. Supposedly more snow is to come this afternoon and evening, but they are still only saying an inch or two. You can check in with the Quad Cam periodically to see what is happening on campus.

Am still working my way through questions you posed back in December. Here is today’s offering:

Compare the way Wake is dealing with pandemic with other schools and which approach seems to work best.

It’s a really tricky question to ask what is “best,” because every school has a unique set of circumstances re: COVID in their area; hospital availability/bed usage; state-mandated gathering sizes; size of their campus community; age/risk profile of their campus members; needs of their student body (international and domestic students, undergrads and graduate students can have very different needs, etc.). So what worked well at Duke might not have worked well at Wake, etc.

Schools made different decisions on how much testing to do, ranging from almost none to testing the entire population multiple times a week. All schools are trying to strike a balance between getting an accurate picture of the health of their community with their human and financial resources available. Some schools made difficult decisions to lay off staff or eliminate academic resources to balance the cost of COVID mitigation strategies. Wake Forest’s approach to testing was successful in identifying issues throughout the semester and allowing for mitigation.

Schools also made different decisions on gathering sizes, often limited by state and local guidelines. While some had looser guidelines, others were tighter: for example, when I talked to some of my counterparts at other schools about “outside time” for students in quarantine, many did not allow that at all. Some schools allowed student organizations to host in-person events for students to build connection and belonging on a very limited basis, and only outdoors. Wake Forest felt that these connections were important for our first-year students, and so student organizations have been allowed to conduct programs both indoors and outdoors. Carefully crafted safety procedures were created to allow students to engage with each other within University and state guidelines. Every school has to figure out how to deal with the pandemic based on their circumstances, and I respect that these decisions are incredibly complicated.

The fact that we were able to stay on campus (whereas many other schools had to send everyone home) speaks to our success in trying to find the right balance of all these factors. Some of the keys for us were our asymptomatic testing program, our ability to quarantine and isolate, and our commitment to building an extensive network of contact tracers. My impression (from all the COVID meetings I was in and the discussions I heard) is that schools without a significant contact tracing program – or with a significant number of students who did not comply with contact tracing – did not fare as well as we did.

 In other news, I received notice of an upcoming webinar that may be of interest:

Business Boot Camp for Non-Business Majors – Parents and families are invited to attend a Zoom call on Tuesday, January 12 at 4:00 p.m. ET to learn about the very popular and successful Summer Management Program. All undergraduate students who are non-business majors (including all freshmen) are eligible. The program offers 8.0 credits and is pass/fail. WFU Business Professor Ben King will host this information session for parents via Zoom.

Last up today, we will be operating the Call Center from 10 am-2 pm Eastern on Saturday and Sunday at 336-758-7500. In the event you call and no one answers, please leave a message and we will respond to you as quickly as we can. You can also leave a message on our COVID form.

Have a great weekend and stay safe!

— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)

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