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A message from President Bateman about spring semester reopening

Dear Randolph community members,

It is my sincere hope that all of you were able to take advantage of our winter break and relax and unwind after a difficult fall semester. I cannot express how proud I am of our community and how we came together to overcome challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The start of the spring semester is near, and I felt it important to share some information about our reopening with the community. This email includes information on the current conditions in Lynchburg, our new COVID-19 Dashboard, and campus testing protocols. The COVID-19 Task Force continues to meet daily to both fine-tune plans for the semester, as well as to closely monitor what is becoming an alarming situation in the local Lynchburg community regarding the virus. The number of cases in the area is increasing at a dramatic rate, and the local hospital system has signaled its concern for capacity limits. We have close relationships with both state and local officials, as well the hospital system and are monitoring the situation closely.

We have already begun to welcome some early arrival students back to campus, and despite a rigorous testing protocol, we have already dealt with several positive cases and resulting quarantine situations. However, this is why we have careful plans in place, and we are appreciative of the cooperation of our students, faculty, and staff. As we prepare for the arrival of the remainder of the students who have chosen to return to campus, it is abundantly clear how important it is for us all to adhere to CDC guidelines and recommendations, both for our own safety and the health of our community as a whole. Your actions will make a difference in our ability to offer an in-person learning environment this semester.

We continue to frequently update our COVID-19 website, and I believe most of your questions about the start of the semester have answers in the FAQs posted there. I would encourage you to check these sections first for timely answers. Also beginning this week, we have added a COVID-19 Dashboard, which will share the number of positive cases on campus, as well as the number of individuals in quarantine. The dashboard will be updated by 10 a.m. each weekday with numbers current as of 5 p.m. the day prior. It is our hope that providing this information allows our community a transparent and easy way to see the current COVID-19 situation on our campus.

Another vital part of our ability to reopen campus to students this spring is testing, especially since so much of the spread of the virus is through exposure to asymptomatic individuals. We are requiring all students to submit negative PCR test results before returning to campus. Students should have received this information already via email from our DOS staff. In addition, we will implement random testing during the semester for those students, faculty, and staff who are on campus. This mandatory testing will include weekly testing of 10 percent of employees who are working on campus and 15 percent of residential and commuter students taking in-person classes. Testing will take place on Mondays and Thursdays, and those selected will be notified via email prior to the test. Please note that the testing is randomized and names are resubmitted to the pool each week, which creates the possibility that some may be tested more than once. Testing will be conducted at the Nursery School, located on the lower level of the Health Center. More information about the testing protocol is located on our COVID-19 website.

As it has been since March of last year, the COVID-19 situation continues to change almost daily, and the members of our Task Force are working diligently to stay abreast of the local and nationwide implications of the pandemic, while creating plans that will keep our community safe. What has not changed is our commitment to our students, faculty, and staff. The health and safety of our community will continue to remain at the forefront of all that we do.

Despite our careful plans, we must remain flexible, adaptable, and ready to adjust as conditions change. I am confident in our community and its dedication to one another and believe that together, we can and will overcome any challenges before us this semester.

With gratitude,

Brad

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