College in the Time of COVID (October 25, 2021)

Coronavirus-19, COVID-19, has been devastating. By Thanksgiving, we will likely have lost 800,000 Americans. Personally, I know 23 people (friends and colleagues) who have succumbed to the virus. Here at SCC, we lost a staff member to COVID-19. The virus is real and the impact is real. We can debate the politics of the virus (and I can’t believe there are politics associated with a virus), but we can’t debate the number of people impacted by this devastation.

Your Salem Community College is taking the virus seriously. There is a significant need to regain control of our lives and provide educational services to our community. Quarantine or lockdown, whichever is your preference, slowed but did not eradicate the spread of the virus. Some debate the counterproductive economic factors as surpassing those of the common health interest. That debate can be pursued in another forum. Recovery is likely a two- or three-year experience as it was during the “Spanish Flu” of 1918 (which originated in Kansas, not Spain). It can be argued that the Spanish Flu of 1918 laid the groundwork for the Great Depression.

Some facts you should know:

  • As of this date, we have had six student and six employee cases of COVID-19. Of these cases, none were transmitted while individuals were on campus.
  • Our COVID Hotline -- 856-351-2840 -- is used regularly. Seven of us are tied into the hotline and respond as soon as the call comes through. To my knowledge, only one case had to be retrieved from a one-hour-old voicemail.
  • Most Hotline cases are precautionary. Today I took a call from a student who was out of state over the weekend, had contact with someone who had contact with someone who tested positive. This student was vaccinated and had no symptoms, so he goes along, business as usual. He was told that if he has symptoms, get tested. This was not a close contact situation.
  • Most of those making inquiries have been of vaccinated and are asymptomatic. If you are fully vaccinated, and demonstrate no symptoms, you can conduct business as usual.
  • When we become aware of a case, or a possible case, Public Safety immediately goes into contact-tracing mode. They examine seating charts and notify possibly effected students. To my knowledge, we have not had a contact-tracing positive case yet.

We must maintain perspective. No one wants to see a student or colleague get the virus. Mask, distance (as much as possible), and wash your hands frequently. Get vaccinated and get the booster. Nothing protects you from COVID-19 as effectively as the vaccine. Protecting the SCC family is our priority. First place in prevention – the vaccine. A distant second place in prevention - mask, distance, and wash your hands. Third (or more) place is to go back into our quarantine/lockdown. Better days ahead, they just may not be today.

Stay safe.