OCT. 27: Keep wearing your mask

To the University community,

As we approach the end of the month, allow me to offer my thanks for your continued vigilance and compliance with our coronavirus policies, which has enabled us to keep our campus open. While this has certainly been a challenging experience for all of us, your strong sense of community and concern for others has enabled us to maintain a sense of normalcy, when so many of our peer institutions have failed. You have made a difference!

While we are still effectively managing the situation on our campus, as we all know, with the virus still highly active in our surrounding communities, our institution feels the effects. Over the past two weeks, we have started to see a troubling uptick in the number of cases on our campus, which requires our immediate attention, if we are to continue to offer on-ground operations.

We do understand the need for social connections for our students, and therefore balancing COVID safety with the mental health of our students will be in the forefront of our decisions as we monitor infection rate and the impact on our campus operations. Unfortunately, I have personally observed, and heard reports too frequently, that a few in our community have become lax, or even defiant, of our mask policy. I cannot stress to you enough the importance of following all health and safety requirements in this regard. It is my hope that everyone will assist in these efforts and disciplinary actions would not be necessary. However, non-compliance with our policies is a serious matter and those in violation are subject to the appropriate student conduct and/or University disciplinary actions. 

It is imperative that every member of our community commit to the health and safety of each other. Wearing masks and social distancing are considered two of the most effective deterrents to the spread of the virus. If we are not successful in slowing the increase in students testing positive for COVID-19, we will have to take steps to further reduce the interaction of our students and employees. Such measures might include the temporary closure of common areas like lounges or study areas, or the cancellation of student extracurricular activities. Fortunately, your actions, to date, have demonstrated a commitment to our successful operations. With your continued support, I am confident we can avoid further changes in our activities.

In our local community, we are seeing a disturbing trend in infection rate, as two local high schools were forced yesterday to move to a virtual environment and a number of others have sent large numbers of students home due to exposure. As a result, County Mayor Bill Ketron announced that Rutherford County will reinstate its face-covering order, effective at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday and until further notice. You can read the county’s announcement here. I am optimistic that, as demonstrated with the previous mask requirements, the mayor’s action will result in a significant improvement in our county’s infection rate.

Your efforts have contributed greatly to our ability to remain open for the 2020 Fall semester and puts us on solid footing for the coming Spring 2021 semester. I am counting on you to follow the rules, keep your guard up and make smart and safe decisions.

Sidney A. McPhee


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