Faculty and Staff - September 3, 2020

Dear Colleagues: 

I am writing to say thank you and to provide some updates. I truly appreciate your dedication and patience as we have begun the semester online and are poised to begin in-person instruction on Tuesday, Sept. 8, as part of our Return to Learn.

It is to be expected that with the return to school, concerns and anxieties exist. I know you have many questions. By way of this email (admittedly long but appropriately so) and tomorrow morning’s town hall, I hope we can reassure you that we are doing everything possible to navigate the transition to in-person, resident instruction.

Move-in news

We had a successful start to residential student move-in yesterday. Residence Life, Health Services and Campus Police worked together to implement a touch-free move-in process that allowed for health assessment and screening before students and their helpers, who had reserved a time in advance, were allowed to move in. This minimized the number of people in the halls at once and allowed an orderly and safe process for everyone. This phased move-in lasts through Monday, Sept. 7. Thanks to all of the staff who have been working to ensure this vitally important first step to transitioning students back to campus goes well and according to plan. 

Adjusting to the fall

Prior to arrival, students received instruction on what to bring to campus (over-the-counter medications, digital thermometer, go bag, etc.) and how to utilize our new symptom tracker software (see below) on a daily basis to keep tabs on their health. Students also were invited to a Student Engagement town hall that was held last week to share how Student Affairs will ensure students feel connected this fall through in-person and virtual opportunities. An “Into the Unknown” event will be held virtually and in person on Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. in Tillman Auditorium so students can learn more about how the university is moving forward and what students can expect with respect to program and service delivery. 


We already know that becoming accustomed to the new protocols and expectations is a learning curve students must adjust to quickly. They have been provided all the information needed for a successful semester, including our masking requirement and physical distancing expectations; Student Conduct Code additions and the consequences of not abiding by university expectations; and a health kit. We have to lead by example and utilize teachable moments to encourage compliance with our new expectations. Students will be receiving email and video snippets on social media in the coming days to reinforce these expectations.

Positive COVID cases

One point of information that it is important for all faculty and staff to understand is how we are handling potential student COVID cases on campus. We have a limited number of test kits available through Health Services that are reserved for students who exhibit symptoms of COVID. Students who obtain COVID testing in the community must immediately notify Health Services of the test date by emailing covidreporting@winthrop.edu and report their results. These procedures will help us track cases and pursue contact tracing.

If instructed by Health Services staff, residential students will be required to immediately return home to complete quarantine or isolation. All residential students must submit a Return to Campus Plan to Residence Life as a proactive measure in the event they are impacted by COVID and must leave campus immediately.

Students who return home for quarantine or isolation are expected to follow up with their personal health provider for any COVID-related care and notify Health Services at covidreporting@winthrop.edu of any changes in their condition impacting their return to in-person instruction.

A great new tool for all residential students and commuter students attending in-person classes is the COVID Symptom Tracker in the Medicat Patient Portal COVID-19 tab. Residential and commuter students are strongly encouraged to use the tracker every day before leaving their residence. A positive response on the daily tracker will display instructions and automatically prompts contact from Health Services.

All of our student protocols stem from use of the patient portal or covidreporting@winthrop.edu email. Faculty should use this email if they suspect or have heard from a student that s/he may have or have been exposed to COVID. Do not attempt to help manage a student’s situation on your own. Use the email to initiate assistance to the student through our approved protocols.

For acute illness that results in absence from in-person classes, Health Services will notify the Dean of Students Office which provides official absence notifications to Academic Affairs. The Dean of Students Office will issue an absence notification (dates only, not condition) to students’ faculty members. At that point, faculty members are expected to do all they can to help ensure the student can continue successfully in their classes.

Finally, we are working to develop a website dashboard with weekly positive cases reported to us among students and faculty/staff. We will send out more information as soon as it is available. 

Testing on campus

We will not be testing all students, staff or faculty as we begin in-person instruction as it is not recommended by the CDC or DHEC. However, I am pleased to share that we are in conversation with DHEC to use our facilities (one of the Coliseum parking lots) for a long-term, free, mobile testing site that will be open to the public, and of course, the Winthrop community. This is an exciting development, and more details will be forthcoming.

MUSC visit and report

Last month, consultants from MUSC visited campus, reviewed protocols for our Return to Learn plans, and provided risk assessment. We are working to address their recommendations and suggestions, including implementing specific checklists that would apply to divisions and areas of campus.

Reconsideration Task Force report

In all of this preparation and assessment, we are guided by a report provided in late July by a campus-wide Reconsideration Task Force which researched possible “triggers” or a combination of factors that might prompt a change in our campus operations based on COVID.  The committee’s charge was to identify possible factors that would encourage us to review a decision to bring students back to campus or, if they were back on campus, what possible factors would cause us to go remote again as we did in March. In addition to available COVID risk levels in the community and state, other factors included the capacity of local hospitals to care for COVID patients, availability of COVID supplies on campus, availability of student-serving quarantine/isolation facilities on campus and related staffing, appropriate infrastructure to support on-campus cases where students were not able to go home, etc. The consideration of these factors--and a recognition as to the commitment to provide the best education possible to our students--led to the decision to bring students back to campus. We will continue to monitor all of these factors as we move forward in the coming weeks. If it appears that we cannot serve the majority of our students safely and mitigate the possible risk to our staff and faculty, we will consider these factors and make the appropriate decision.

I hope you find these updates helpful. We all know that it will take commitment from every member of the campus community to mitigate the spread of COVID to protect ourselves and one another, and keep our campus safe. Our individual actions can have a profound effect on others. Please practice social responsibility and consistently adhere to all COVID-related precautions such as wearing a mask, avoiding close contact with others (especially group gatherings), staying home if feeling unwell, and frequently washing your hands. Together, we can do this!



George W. Hynd
Interim President