Seven Hundred Forty-Two ... and counting
Wondering about that number? You probably already guessed, but it’s been 742 days since the first meeting of the Anderson University COVID-19 Task Force. (Yes, we counted.)
There’s a reason we named our COVID-19 response plan “The Journey Ahead.” For two years, we’ve been moving ever forward, traveling along a path whose pitfalls we couldn’t always see, full of twists and turns and of moments when the way was hidden in shadows.
Of course, shadows are only present when there’s light above. Our path has never been in total darkness. And that’s because we walk in the presence of He who is light.
Among the reasons for this message, then, is to acknowledge God’s ever-present hand in guiding Anderson University—not only throughout the last 742 days, but also the entirety of its 111 years of existence. Indeed, no matter the specific announcement, that theme is woven throughout every Journey Ahead message you’ve received. It stands to reason that it would be a major theme of this message.
After all, it may be the final Journey Ahead communication you receive.
While that is our hope, we are keenly aware that there are few certainties in life (other than that whole “death and taxes” thing.) We acknowledge COVID-19 hasn’t completely disappeared. We know some people are still sick. We know others will get infected. The Journey Ahead isn’t over, but it’s time to rest from our travels.
Here’s what that means, practically speaking:
- Beginning this week, we have ceased publishing COVID-19 case counts as part of an overall effort to scale back most Journey Ahead content on our website. As of this moment, there are no known cases of infection on campus (among faculty, staff or students.) In fact, since February 18, we’ve had only one new case reported, and the Dashboard has shown zero over the last two weeks.
- Anderson University has resumed normal operations with regards to health and safety protocols. In most parts of the country, public health conditions are such that no extra precautions are necessary. In other words, just use common sense to protect yourself and others: wash your hands, cover any coughs and stay home when you’re not well.
- Meetings of a subgroup of the COVID-19 Task Force will continue, though the entire Task Force will no longer meet on a weekly basis. While the leadership team remains engaged and will monitor the public health environment both on campus and off, specific Task Force committees have concluded their work. As always, the University is prepared to respond quickly to changing circumstances (or any emergency, for that matter.)
As we mentioned earlier, the University is not aware of a single case of COVID-19 on campus. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s been eradicated. But it does place the current public health environment here at AU in context. Consider this graph:
As you can see, we are experiencing a sharp and consistent downward trend of COVID-19 cases. Based on data from previous semesters, we can reasonably conclude this trend will continue. Further, the dominant variant of COVID-19 right now, Omicron, produces less severe symptoms than its predecessors. Finally, when combining the number of people on campus who are either vaccinated or have already contracted COVID-19 (or both), the portrait emerges of a pandemic that’s coming to an end.
The bottom line? Based on the advice of our own medical experts here at AU—and we are blessed to have many—and that of most public health experts worldwide, we are no longer experiencing a public health emergency.
Let’s set aside all of that for the moment and consider another factor: the mental burden the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on us. It’s one that simply cannot be overstated. These 742 days have taken an enormous emotional toll on all of us, the impacts of which will be felt for years—long after the pandemic’s end.
Previously it was prudent and wise to place a greater emphasis on the physical wellbeing of our campus community; the uncertain nature of the disease—especially in those early months, when there was so much we didn’t know—required an abundance of caution. Putting mask mandates in place, encouraging vaccination, isolating people who were infected, and every other protocol put in place by Anderson University these past two years were prudent and wise. We stand by those decisions, and remain deeply appreciative of your willingness to adhere to them by being stronger together.
However, given the public health situation that currently exists, the greater danger now is the pandemic’s unseen symptoms: among them are anxiety, depression and fear. The time has come to combat them as aggressively and as prayerfully as we protected our campus from the spread of COVID-19 itself.
A Lesson From History
Following President Richard Nixon’s resignation, President Gerald Ford pardoned his predecessor for any crimes associated with the Watergate scandal. The pardon was highly controversial and probably cost President Ford his career. Politically speaking, he never recovered from the public’s outrage.
Then why did he do it?
As he explained to Congress, in a 1974 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee:
“I was absolutely convinced then as I am now that if we had had [an] indictment, a trial, a conviction, and anything else that transpired after this that the attention of the President, the Congress and the American people would have been diverted from the problems that we have to solve. And that was the principle reason for my granting of the pardon.”
The logic, explained more simply, is that President Ford recognized that it was time to get Richard Nixon off the front page of the newspaper. On that count, the pardon worked. Today, with the benefit of hindsight, many historians now believe President Ford made the right decision. Bob Woodward, one of the journalists who broke the Watergate story and among the most vocal early critics of President Ford’s pardon, now thinks differently. In 2014, he called it “an act of courage.”
Anderson University is a recognized leader in the community. A great deal of responsibility comes with that influence. This moment, and our choice to return to normal operations, is evidence that Anderson University is serious about that responsibility. We are making the courageous choice—backed by science, expert counsel, prayer, and both the physical and emotional health of the campus community—to do what we can to get COVID-19 off the front page of the newspaper. That is not the only consideration. But it is an important one.
The Journey Ahead
We hope you are excited by this message. Members of our Task Force team certainly are as well. Some of you still feel uneasy about COVID-19, and we understand your concerns. That’s why we are asking every member of our campus community to continue supporting one another. We will not tolerate anyone being mistreated for simply wearing a mask or choosing to be vaccinated. Our campus community should reflect the values on which we were built, and that includes showing great hospitality to those who feel differently than you do about the pandemic—or the proper response to it.
Enjoy your rest, AU family. You deserve it.
It’s been a long journey.
Journey Ahead Resources
Safeguards for You & Our Community
when you or someone in your household are sick.
your health daily for any symptoms.
your hands often! At least 20 seconds.
coughs and sneezes! Trash used tissues.