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November 24, 2020
Dear Pitzer Community,
I write to provide information on the current situation regarding COVID-19 in Los Angeles County as it relates to Pitzer and our planning for the spring semester.
Recently the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) has held two separate briefings for Institutes of Higher Education (IHE) in the county. On November 12, less than two weeks ago, the county was experiencing more than 2,500 new coronavirus cases each day, an amount that was referred to at the time by health officials as “disappointing and alarming.” This week there have been more than 6,000 new cases reported each day, and hospitalizations and deaths in Los Angeles County are at the highest level since the start of the pandemic – a situation that was described as a severe health crisis in today’s briefing.
Given the recent acceleration in new cases in the region, and the likelihood of a continued surge due to the holidays, LACDPH does not plan to loosen restrictions on IHE anytime in the near future. They have indicated that case levels will need to decrease dramatically in order to consider any changes in the current public health guidance for colleges and universities.
As I indicated previously, it was my intention to inform the Pitzer Community of our plans for the spring semester by the middle of December. As of today, it seems extremely unlikely that we will be able to return students to campus and our best and safest course of action is to plan for a remote spring semester.
I want to assure you that we continue to work actively to explore avenues that will allow us to safely return students to on-campus living at some point in the spring. We acknowledge that the public health circumstances in our area will need to improve significantly before implementing these plans. Before returning students to campus, we will finalize and communicate about the safety protocols that will be in place to ensure the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and members of the surrounding community.
I remain hopeful that with our solid planning as a foundation, we will be able to successfully pivot to returning students to campus at some time during the spring semester. At this time, though, the outlook is not encouraging, and is not what we envisioned for our campus next semester. I understand that a fully online academic program is tiring and stressful. We continue to assess and revise our academic policies and co-curricular programming to provide the best possible environment, support, and resources for students. Our commitment to a high quality and student-centered educational experience for all of our students is strong and unwavering, and Pitzer faculty and staff are continuing to adapt and innovate to better meet the demands of remote education.
In the meantime, it was disheartening to learn about several large off-campus gatherings involving Claremont Colleges students during Halloween Weekend, gatherings that resulted in several students from across the consortium transmitting and contracting COVID-19. Student Health Services (SHS) of the Claremont Colleges has been working closely with staff in Student Affairs at individual colleges to provide support and assistance to students who have been impacted. In addition, since it was reported that some students traveled to the area to attend these gatherings, and many students are traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, SHS has been offering free COVID testing for students.
Regardless of where we are it is important for all of us to adhere to appropriate health and safety protocols at all times. At a minimum, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone should:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
- if soap and water are not available use a hand sanitizer
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with others, both inside and outside;
- Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others;
- Cover coughs and sneezes – always throw away tissues and wash hands immediately;
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces regularly;
- Monitor your health daily and follow CDC guidelines if symptoms develop.
At Pitzer we pride ourselves on our commitment to community – whether it is locally, nationally, or around the world. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we put this commitment into action, and that each of us does everything we possibly can to limit the spread of infection to friends, family, loved-ones, neighbors, and others with whom we have contact.
I will provide additional updates when new information becomes available. Until then, best wishes for a healthy and safe end of fall semester and Thanksgiving holiday.
Melvin L. Oliver President