Statement from President Glenn Arbery Regarding the Closure of Campus in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic
Over the past few weeks, the College’s administrators have been meeting with increasingly frequency as we tracked the threatening progress of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) across our country, making plans for how we could best care for our students and lend assistance our local health care and government officials in this time. Last night, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Lander, bringing our plans into even sharper focus.
As a result of this news, I have made the painful decision to close the College’s physical campus for the next few weeks, canceling all in-person classes immediately and moving them online until the end of our Easter Break, April 14th. We will continue to monitor the situation in the coming days and reassess regularly, in the hopes that the crisis will pass and our students can return to Lander and to their classes.
Most of our students are at low personal risk, but in our conversations with local health professionals, we learned the urgency of quarantining all those with respiratory ailments; they should not associate with others, either socially or in classes, for two weeks. The College’s present residential facilities make effective quarantine of affected students impossible, even for a very few, much less for a larger population. This scarcity of space suggests the logic of dispersing students to their homes for the time being and reconvening them when the cold-weather threat of COVID-19 has subsided. Colleges across the country are following the same logic.
Those at greatest risk to themselves or their families should also self-quarantine to avoid exposure to COVID-19, which means that the President, the Academic Dean, the college chef, and at least four faculty members should remove themselves from active campus presence immediately, as should a number of staff and administrators. Even if no cases were identified in the College community (or no further cases in the local community) these removals would render the ordinary academic operations of the College impossible.
The next few weeks (or even days) in Wyoming could see a rapid rise of the disease and the disruption of many regional systems, including access to air travel. We do not know what effects a general disruption might have on the supply chain of food and other supplies to Lander. Additionally, our medical facilities are even less equipped to handle a dramatic surge, and we fear that these factors could gravely impact our ability to ensure the care and safety of our students.
Given the impossibility of quarantining students effectively, the impending absence of much of the faculty, staff, and administrators, and the particular challenges and risks posed by our remoteness, it seems most reasonable to suspend ordinary classes until after Easter, especially in an area where medical facilities are limited.
In the meantime, we put ourselves during this Lent, as always, under the providence of God and the protection of Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom.