Update from Appalachian State University — Dec. 21, 2020
In higher education, our focus on continual improvement means we sometimes neglect to celebrate our successes. This year in particular we have had many significant achievements worth honoring — specifically our ongoing response to the global pandemic. In preparing this message — my final update in 2020 — I find myself reflecting on all we have accomplished this year in light of the remarkable circumstances presented by COVID-19.
This year, we have:
- Administered nearly 31,300 COVID-19 tests at no cost to our faculty, staff and students.
- Maintained isolation/quarantine inventory at optimal levels. Even at the height of our use, capacity never dropped below 62% and stayed well above 70% for the majority of the semester.
- Provided more than 15,000 meals for campus and community members — for those in isolation and quarantine and through the Meals for Mountaineers program.
- Distributed more than 97,700 washable, cloth face coverings to our faculty, staff and students. Our new face coverings have arrived and we are beginning the process of distributing five new face coverings so each student, faculty and staff member will have them in time for the start of the spring semester.
- Awarded nearly $7 million to students in need through CARES Act emergency grants and the Mountaineer Emergency Fund.
- Made more than 15,800 calls to check on new and continuing students.
- Had no documented cases of classroom transmission of COVID-19.
- Graduated more than 5,300 students through two virtual commencement ceremonies.
These milestones — and so many others — speak to your compassion and pragmatism as we collectively responded to the many impacts COVID-19 has had on our campus community. Above all, we prioritized safety and sought to assist one another, innovating new ways to help members of the App State and broader community. In times of crisis, we reveal our true character, and I am proud of how we have come together as Mountaineers — working together to rebuild our university infrastructure, even as we are using it, while taking care of one another. This is what we do at App State.
Last week, we conducted our final COVID exit testing events of the year.
- Our fall semester COVID-19 exit testing numbers remain strong. Last week, we conducted 617 tests with 9 positive results, or 1.46%.
- All university-related clusters have moved into inactive status. This means the NCDHHS-established 28-day period for no new active cases in active clusters has passed for all clusters identified as associated with the university.
- We are not using any of our isolation/quarantine inventory at the present time, but we will provide isolation/quarantine support to students who need it throughout the winter break.
We will pause updates to our COVID-19 Dashboard from Dec. 24–Jan. 1, and will add daily data for that time period on Jan. 2.
Our entry testing plans for the spring semester are well underway. This week, students who will be living in residence halls received information about required entry testing, and updates will continue as we approach the beginning of the spring semester. Campus surveillance and entry testing events will resume in early January 2021.
As I shared in my Dec. 4 remarks to the university’s Board of Trustees, App State has been engaged in conversations with state and local public health officials for several weeks about our role in administering COVID-19 vaccines. With support from the UNC System, we will be well positioned to assist state and local public health officials with storage of the vaccine as part of the state’s implementation of the NCDHHS vaccine distribution plan. App State will be among 15 institutions in the UNC System to receive cold storage units that can collectively store 1.86 million vaccine doses. The units, which will be provided by the UNC System, were purchased by the UNC Policy Collaboratory with funds appropriated by the North Carolina General Assembly to support COVID-19 recovery and response efforts across the state. We will repurpose our four cold storage units at a later time for academic research. We appreciate the state legislature’s forward thinking that will enable us to be a part of the local and state response to serve rural areas in our state.
- Vaccine distribution will be via state channels in line with the NCDHHS vaccine distribution plan. App State will not independently procure, store or distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
- The UNC System Office will continue to coordinate with NCDHHS about distribution of a vaccine to university students and employees.
- We have an agreement in place with AppHealthCare, the local public health department, to serve as a distribution site for vaccines for students, faculty and staff.
As the university moves into our holiday break, our operations will slow down for a few days. Our campus COVID-19 response team remains hard at work implementing campus safety measures and preparing for spring semester and beyond, and my weekly updates, as well as weekly campus operations updates, will resume the week of Jan. 11.
This year, more than any before, has illuminated the resilience, perseverance and kindness of the Appalachian Community — and that is something of which we should all be extremely proud. I wish each of you a safe and restful break.
Happy holidays, Mountaineers!
Sheri Everts, Chancellor