October 30, 2020
Dear Family and Friends,
These are trying times for everyone across our country and I want you to know that Mars Hill University continues to work very hard to protect and safeguard our students, staff, and faculty from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of you are juggling family, work, children, and many other stressors. I want to tell you that our university leadership has you in our thoughts and prayers as we all seek to work through the complexities of these turbulent times.
For the first time since March, our local county (Madison County) has experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases. The ongoing contact tracing identified that most of the cases occurred as a result of large gatherings that had occurred. Despite this, Madison County is still one of the counties with the fewest numbers of COVID-19 cases, but we are seeing the county numbers rise in this largely rural area.
I am happy to report that as of the time of my writing this note on the afternoon of October 30 that we have not seen the same type of uptick. We have only had a total of 20 positive cases since Labor Day weekend and our students have been working very hard to do the things that we have asked them to do to create a safe campus environment. We have had students in and out of quarantine and isolation, but it has paid off, as our COVID-19 count has been much less than many other schools. We continue to work hard to clean, to be socially distant, to wear masks, all while seeking to provide high-quality academics and campus engagement.
I ask that you continue to encourage your student to follow protocols. I encourage you to get them to stay on campus as much as possible to protect them from the external environment. I encourage you to help us to build up their spirit as I know that they are tired of protocols, masks, and being physically separated.
We continue to work with and lean on our medical partners at MAHEC and our sister institutions that are pulling hard together. We received an in-kind grant this week of 7,000 new masks for our students, staff, and faculty. We have also received some government and foundation grants to help to defray the incredible costs we have incurred with PPE, cleaning, plexiglass, and testing.
Our new health center, equipped with more robust staffing, has been a wonderful addition to our campus services this fall and was just in time as we planned to be ready for this pandemic.
Our campus has had a positive atmosphere this fall. We recently had a unity march in support of our students of color and the large gathering was done responsibly, peacefully, in a socially distanced manner. You would have been proud of these students who expressed love and caring for each other.
We continue to work hard to help our young people understand how important it is to be an engaged citizen through education, being informed, and voting. We are in unprecedented times with many in our country being polarized. I will be working over the next few days to reinforce our values of respect, civility, and citizenship as we have students, staff, and faculty from many different viewpoints.
Please know that as you navigate the next few weeks, the coming holidays, and an uncertain winter that we are here to help you. We are by no means a perfect community but we are a community that cares deeply about these students and about you, their families, and friends. Terry and I wish you the best this fall and are looking forward to a day when we can get together on campus and celebrate overcoming the challenges that we now face. That day is coming!