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MARCH 13 WELCH COLLEGE UPDATE ON THE CORONAVIRUS

Dear Welch Students, Faculty, and Staff,

The fast-changing developments surrounding the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) have the members of our administration and our Special Committee on the Coronavirus conferring on an hourly basis. I am writing you to announce that we have elected to extend Welch’s spring break by two days and move all classes online beginning March 25.

Thus, rather than returning to campus on Monday, March 23, as planned, students will remain at home and conduct their courses online. Faculty will return to campus on March 23 for in-service training regarding remote teaching and learning. Courses will resume, online, on Wednesday, March 25.

We will keep you updated as to how long the period of online instruction will be. At this juncture, on-campus classes and residence in residence halls (with limited hardship exceptions) will not resume until April 8. We realize, however, that this is subject to change, and we will keep you updated as changes are made.

You will be receiving more detailed information from the Provost’s Office as well as from the Special Committee. Please check your email frequently. If you have any questions, please email them to COVID-19@welch.edu.

At this time I am reminded of something C. S. Lewis said in one of his letters: “God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain, but without stain.” Let us make the most of this tribulation, strengthening our faith in the God who holds us in the palm of His hand.

Sincerely,

Matt Pinson
President

A Letter from President Pinson Regarding the Coronavirus

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Recently I came across a quotation from Corrie Ten Boom: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” In this time of uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus and its effects, this truth comforts us, reminding us that God will meet all our needs, now and in the future.

I wanted to write you and let you know that we are closely monitoring the developments on residential college and university campuses regarding the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). As you may have heard, many colleges and universities have suspended face-to-face classes, moving them online—most for two or three weeks, some for the remainder of the semester.

One way Welch is different from many schools is that our spring break started a week later than that of many schools, meaning that our normal break would end a week later as well. This gives us a little more time to monitor the situation and make appropriate decisions.

Some institutions have elected to extend spring break, followed by a two-to-three-week period of online coursework. It will probably be necessary for us to do this. One advantage we have at Welch is that we conducted the first part of the Spring 2017 semester in just this way, owing to the late opening of our newly constructed campus that semester. Thus we don’t anticipate a difficult transition to online classes if and when we feel the need to make that transition.

Provost Dr. Matthew McAffee and I met today with the co-chairmen of the Special Committee, Craig Mahler and Greg Fawbush, to discuss next steps. Our plan is to keep abreast of the developing situation over the weekend and make a final decision on Monday. I will inform you then of the details of our teaching and learning situation going forward.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

Sincerely,

Matt Pinson
President

Important Update from the Special Committee to Review Coronavirus Outbreak

March 10, 2020

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to dominate national news coverage. Its global impact is real and lasting, and it requires an appropriately measured response. The Special Committee urges our community of faith and learning to view these circumstances through a gospel-informed lens and to understand that COVID-19 offers believers an opportunity to infuse this troubling phenomenon with the radiant hope offered by the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

Our priority is to make informed decisions that promote the well-being of our faculty, staff, and students. Presently, Welch College expects to resume on-campus courses as planned on Monday, March 23.

However, we continue to monitor this rapidly changing situation, and we are prepared to respond to a situation where, due to community spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), normal collegiate operating procedures are no longer feasible. Thus, the College may, for example, modify college travel, including for Choir tour, transition from residential (i.e., on-campus) to online learning, and even cancel events.

While the Committee believes that current facts and circumstances do not warrant such measures at the present time, the development of the COVID-19 phenomenon has demonstrated that all plans are subject to change (and sometimes rapidly!). Therefore, follow campus email and other sources of College information closely for any announcements. In order to communicate quickly and effectively, the Committee has decided that it will use the college’s emergency notification system to communicate important updates concerning the Coronavirus (COVID-19) to the campus community, if needed.

If a member of the Welch community (e.g., faculty, staff, or student) is exposed through interaction with someone who tests positive or tests positive himself or herself (over spring break or after), then he or she must report this information to the Committee immediately by emailing covid-19@welch.edu.

In an effort to answer several important questions related to Coronavirus (COVID-19), we have included a section of frequently asked questions below.

The Committee continues to monitor this changing situation actively and its impact to the Welch College community. We will issue further updates as needed. As always, contact the Committee with any questions or concerns by emailing covid-19@welch.edu.

Special Committee to Review Coronavirus Outbreak
Members, in alphabetical order:
Matthew Steven Bracey
Greg Fawbush, Co-chair
Dr. Jon Forlines
Russell Houske
Dr. Greg Ketteman
Craig Mahler, Co-chair

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and what information do I need to know about this illness?

See the factsheet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked here about this respiratory illness originating in China. Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty with breathing.

Has anyone on campus been exposed to or tested positive for the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

We have not received report of any cases at this time. However, if a member of our community is exposed through interaction with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 or tests positive himself or herself, then he or she MUST report this information to the Committee as soon as possible by emailing covid-19@welch.edu.

If faculty, staff, or students learn that he or she has interacted with someone who tested positive or tests positive himself or herself, what steps should they follow?

  • Contact the Committee immediately (email: covid-19@welch.edu).
  • Follow the steps outlined by the CDC found here, including contacting your medical provider, self-isolating, and taking preventative measures to limit exposure to others. However, please note that the CDC recommends that one first call his or her medical provider (or a local hospital) if one believes he or she is sick with COVID-19 (i.e., do not visit the healthcare facility without first talking with a doctor or healthcare professional by phone). Such persons should also notify 911 dispatch of this same information when seeking assistance in a medical emergency.

Will Welch College provide testing to those exposed to or showing symptoms of (COVID-19)?

The Committee understands that test kits are not available to the general public and that public health officials (e.g., in Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Health) must approve testing. Although professionals are developing a vaccination for COVID-19, they have not yet completed it.

Will Welch College transition its courses from on-campus to online like other colleges or universities?

This option is a possibility. Fortunately, it is one with which Welch has some experience, since the College implemented it for a time when it relocated from Nashville to Gallatin. The Provost is currently working with faculty on that option in the event that Welch determines that this option is necessary.

When does the College expect to move on-campus classes to an online format?

While the College reserves this option, it is hopeful that it will not implement it. However, due to changing circumstances surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, such an option is possible. As of now, classes are expected to resume as normal (i.e., on-campus) on March 23; however, if circumstances warrant, we could implement the plan for online learning now (e.g., to begin March 23) or later (e.g., at some date after returning to campus on March 23).

Owing to the possibility of transitioning on-campus courses to an online modality as early as March 23, the Committee advises all students to take all textbooks and other materials for school with them when leaving for spring break.

If the college exercises the aforementioned option, it will need to communicate numerous other details. Consequently, Welch constituency must follow campus email closely for new announcements related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact at Welch College, including over spring break. In addition, due to the nature of this situation, we may use the college’s emergency notification system to communicate important updates to everyone.

What steps can we taken to prevent (or at least minimize the risk) the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) (or, for that matter, other communicable illness)?

Preventative measures include:

  • Wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least twenty seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least sixty percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching one’s face with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick. If you are sick, avoid others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or sleeve. If using a tissue, immediately throw it away.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and objects.
  • Stay home if you are ill.
  • Many recommend avoiding handshakes, hugs, or other common forms of greeting.

For more information, review the CDC’s guidelines.

Is Welch College implementing special cleaning procedures?

The College regularly uses commercial-grade cleaning agents. However, we have recently acquired a hospital-grade cleaner and will deep clean public areas over spring break.

Will the campus remain open for employees to report to work if Welch College implements the aforementioned plan for temporary online learning?

It depends. Unless circumstances warrant a temporary shutdown that includes a time where employees remain home, employees will report to work. Other than the possibility for mandatory training days and once online learning is implemented, the Provost may permit other faculty work arrangements.

Whom should one contact if he or she is feeling anxious or struggling to cope with the impact of COVID-19?

The Committee understands that some anxiety and concern exist and we continue to pray for and support faculty, staff, and students (both generally and specifically) who may be struggling with the impact of COVID-19. Resources and services are available, beginning with the College’s caring, compassionate faculty and staff who view supporting our student body as part of their vocational responsibility and calling as teachers.

We remind anyone who struggles with fears about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) (which is understandable, especially given the proliferation of media attention) to find hope in the Lord.

Though we are prudent to isolate ourselves when ill, the Committee urges faculty, staff, and students to avoid unnecessarily taking social distancing to an extreme, remembering that we are called to live in Christian community and fellowship.

We would remind our community of the counseling and other resources available to students (contact Student Services).

 

Letter to FORUM20/Bible Conference Attendees from the Special Committee to Review Coronavirus Outbreak

Dear Friends,

Our community of faith and learning anticipates the upcoming FORUM20/Bible Conference. This annual gathering is an important event in the life of Welch College that complements our mission to educate leaders to serve Christ, His Church, and His world through biblical thought and life. We believe that this conference will encourage those in attendance as we gather to hear the Word of our Lord.

We have also engaged in serious deliberation about the event in light of recent concerns about the Coronavirus (COVID-19). While we have noted that, some have expressed exaggerated fears, our primary concern is for the health and well-being of our community, including the many guests who plan to join us for FORUM20.

As you may be aware, a special committee was recently appointed to monitor this global phenomenon. Originally, the committee was charged to study the feasibility of international travel by our students to serve in both Taiwan and the U.S. Virgin Islands over the coming spring break. However, due to the rapid change in this situation, the committee quickly realized the necessity of assessing campus preparedness in the event of a community-level outbreak. We recently announced the cancellation of both trips, though we are prayerfully hopeful that sponsors can reschedule the trips when the Coronavirus situation improves.

Additionally, we have implemented measures to monitor faculty, staff, and student international travel to areas with community spread and/or locations with active travel advisories from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Upon the explicit recommendation of members of the local medical community, we are requiring that anyone who travels to these areas will self-quarantine for at least fourteen days prior to returning to Welch College to complete the spring semester.

Recent actions follow highly publicized warnings from governments and health organizations, and they come from a concern for the welfare of individuals planning to travel as well as concern for our broader community. As the spread of the Coronavirus continues to grow and raise concerns, we want to communicate some helpful information on how we are monitoring and preparing the campus for this apparent eventuality.

In order to provide a safe and healthy environment for those attending FORUM20, we are asking that faculty, staff, students, and guests use discretion so as not to expose others to communicable illness, especially if one has traveled to/from an area with community spread and/or active CDC travel advisories. Furthermore, we ask that constituents follow preventative measures recommended by the CDC and others, including limiting close contact with those who are sick, covering coughs or sneezes, staying home when one is sick, and cleaning hands regularly with soap and water for at least twenty seconds, among others.

Though we understand the impossibility of eliminating the spread of Coronavirus and other communicable illness entirely, we are grateful for the commitment of the Welch community to do its part to minimize this risk and, in so doing, to provide for the well-being of others.

Blessings,

Special Committee to Review Coronavirus Outbreak
Members, in alphabetical order:
Matthew Bracey
Coach Greg Fawbush, Co-chair
Dr. Jon Forlines
Russell Houske
Dr. Greg Ketteman
Craig Mahler, Co-chair

Welch College Will Not Sanction Previously Planned International Trips: Urges Caution for All Travelers

On February 19 a Special Committee was appointed to monitor events related to the Coronavirus outbreak. They informed the campus community of its charge to make recommendations promoting the safety and well-being of our students and our entire campus community. Faculty, staff, and students are asked to self-report any travel scheduled between now and May 31, 2020, using the survey found here. The committee was aware that members of our community had planned to travel on college-sanctioned trips to Taiwan and the U.S. Virgin Islands to serve others.

Trip Sanctions Withdrawn
After carefully monitoring this rapidly evolving situation, the Special Committee recommended, and President Pinson approved, postponement or cancellation of international travel until the Coronavirus situation improves. Thus we regret to inform our campus community that, as a result of this serious international phenomenon, Welch College will not sanction originally scheduled spring break trips to Taiwan or the U.S. Virgin Islands. We are working with Taiwan and U.S. Virgin Island team members to assess the feasibility of rescheduling trips in the future and, if desired, facilitating local service opportunities during the upcoming break as an alternative. Funds received by Welch College for these trips will be held to support future service opportunities.

Self-Quarantine Measures
We understand that some individuals plan to travel independently (i.e. whether individually or with other groups not under Welch College oversight). While we recognize our inability to alter such plans, it is important that those individuals conduct careful research to make informed personal decisions. Furthermore, and upon the explicit recommendation of members of the local medical community, anyone who chooses to proceed with independent travel to international areas with community spread of the Coronavirus and/or areas under U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) alerts or warnings, will be required to self-quarantine for at least 14 days prior to returning to Welch College to complete the spring semester.

The decision to cancel spring break trips originally sanctioned by Welch College and to discourage international travel follows highly publicized warnings from governments and health organizations and is out of concern for the welfare of individuals planning to travel as well as concern for our college family and the broader community. The responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for our community is one we take seriously and approach both prayerfully and thoughtfully.

Multiple Professionals Consulted
The Special Committee made its decision after reviewing information from trusted sources—including the World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC, among others—and consulting with epidemiologists from the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), colleagues in higher education, denominational leaders, and many others who have offered both information and support. Furthermore, we are especially grateful for the counsel received from officials at Sumner Regional Medical Center (SRMC) in Gallatin.

The Special Committee is grateful to our Welch family for its full cooperation and understanding in this difficult situation. Furthermore, and most importantly, we encourage our community to continue to pray for the many people affected by the Coronavirus outbreak that has currently infected more than 89,000 and resulted in the death of more than 3,000 people worldwide.

Everyday Preventative Measures
All health officials and professionals consulted urge that we remind faculty, staff, and students to follow everyday preventative measures such as home isolation when sick, respiratory etiquette by covering coughs and sneezes, and appropriate hand hygiene, among other actions recommended by the CDC and TDH. The Special Committee continues to monitor this situation and will issue necessary updates. We welcome the feedback of our Welch College community.

Special Committee to Review Coronavirus Outbreak

Members, in alphabetical order:
Matthew Bracey
Coach Greg Fawbush, Co-chair (gfawbush@welch.edu)
Dr. Jon Forlines
Russell Houske
Dr. Greg Ketteman
Craig Mahler, Co-chair (cmahler@welch.edu)

Statement from Special Committee Regarding Coronavirus

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

In order to maintain a safe environment that promotes the well-being of our campus community, a special ad hoc committee of the college’s Safety & Security Committee and others was recently formed to monitor recent events related to the Coronavirus. In order to gain an understanding of those from among our community who expect to travel internationally from now until May 31, the Committee is asking all faculty, staff, and students to self-report international travel using the survey linked here on/by Friday, February 28.

Currently, we are aware that members of our community will travel in the coming weeks to, at least, Taiwan and the U.S. Virgin Islands to serve others. Thus we are monitoring this changing situation daily. Currently, according to John Hopkins University, authorities have confirmed more than 75,000 cases of the Coronavirus worldwide, with 23 in Taiwan, 15 in the United States, and 0 in the U.S. Virgin Islands. While educating leaders to serve Christ, His Church, and His world is at the heart of Welch’s mission, the Committee is considering all possible options for trips, including continuing to sanction the service opportunities to both Taiwan and the U.S. Virgin Islands, cancellation/postponement of one or both trips, or selection of another location, among other options.

After both discussing the matter with internal and external stakeholders and conducting research, we believe that cancelling the college sponsored/sanctioned trips is premature at this time. However, we will continue to monitor the situation in the event that we need to alter our decision—up until the moment of departure. Neither the U.S Department of State (State) nor the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has currently issued any travel advisories/restrictions for either Taiwan or the U.S. Virgin Islands. If international travel proceeds as planned, we will ask those person(s) traveling to sign a waiver, which is currently under development.

We expect to continue our review of the trips and issue another update on/about March 1 (i.e., about 10 days prior to spring break/the group’s departure) or sooner, if needed. While we are prayerfully hopeful that the worldwide situation will improve over the coming weeks, we are carefully considering this matter and, after reviewing the facts and circumstances, are prepared to make a thoughtful decision that provides for the welfare of our entire community of faith and learning.

In the meantime, we are calling our campus community to pray for resolution to this worldwide event that has resulted in the tragic loss of nearly 2,000 lives worldwide and the safety of those traveling, while, finally, asking for wisdom as decisions are made. Furthermore, in order to inform our campus community with the same helpful information used to inform our decision, we offer the following resources for consideration:

We aim to inform the campus community—especially those traveling internationally—in a timely fashion with the latest information and to convey with clarity the inherent risks to international travel due to the Coronavirus. At the same time, any member of the campus community who is scheduled to travel internationally must also conduct the research necessary to make an informed personal decision. Risks include, but are not limited to, government travel restrictions, contracting the Coronavirus, and, in some cases depending on location, limitations of the healthcare system, quarantine and related complexities, and/or special steps imposed by the college or others to monitor one’s health upon returning to the college during the 14-day incubation period, among other things.

We trust this public service announcement is helpful to our campus community and illustrates the seriousness with which we take our responsibility to facilitate a safe and secure learning environment whereby Welch College fulfills its mission to educate leaders to serve Christ, His Church, and His world through biblical thought and life. We look forward to communicating as more information becomes available and as soon as decisions are known. For the time being, do not hesitate to contact either Coach Greg Fawbush or Mr. Craig Mahler, the special committee co-chairs, with any questions.

 

In His Service,

Special Committee to Review Coronavirus Outbreak

Members, in alphabetical order:

Mr. Matthew Bracey
Coach Greg Fawbush, Co-chair (gfawbush@welch.edu)
Dr. Jon Forlines
Mr. Russell Houske
Dr. Greg Ketteman
Mr. Craig Mahler, Co-chair (cmahler@welch.edu)

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For the latest information about coronavirus, visit welch.edu/coronavirus

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