Dear Wake Forest Parents and Families of Students Off Campus,
Because we have no way of knowing which students might still be in Winston-Salem, we are erring on the side of the broadest inclusion possible with this information and are sending this message to families of students who were approved to live off campus. If your student is not in Winston-Salem, please disregard this message.
Peak incidence of COVID-19: next 2-3 weeks
As we enter this first full week of April, public health officials are predicting that the peak incidence of COVID-19 cases in the United States will occur in the next 2-3 weeks. Our public health authorities in North Carolina and locally here in Winston-Salem are predicting a similar peak of cases later this month. The purpose of this letter is to provide an update of our situation locally and to describe what has been done at Wake Forest for the remaining students on campus, locally for our students who live in Winston-Salem, and statewide in North Carolina to mitigate the consequences of this virus.
Status of campus operations/support for students in Winston-Salem
As you may be aware, the majority of our students have left campus and Winston-Salem for their homes elsewhere. The few (less than 350) that remain on campus are all living in a room by themselves, which has increased the ability to practice social distancing.
- The only facilities on campus open for students’ use are the Fresh Food Company (“the Pit”) and the Student Health Service.
- Dining Service staff are delivering meals and groceries to on-campus students.
- The Student Health Service is providing most care through telemedicine. Students who need to be seen in person can be scheduled for an appointment at the Student Health clinic on campus.
- Students who live off-campus in the area can access these services too in certain circumstances.
- Only faculty and staff who are designated as “essential” are allowed on campus, so the population and the usual vibrancy of campus is much lower.
All of these changes have enhanced our ability to support social distancing, which will help to decrease the risk of additional cases on campus; this will also help to limit the spread of the virus to others if another case were to occur.
Stay at Home Order
Similar efforts for social distancing have occurred in Winston-Salem and North Carolina. Winston-Salem Mayor Alan Joines issued a “Stay at Home” proclamation that went into effect on March 27. Governor Roy Cooper issued a similar statewide “Stay at Home” order that went into effect on March 30. Non-essential business and organizations have been closed; this has helped all of our citizens to become aware of the need to avoid public places and public gatherings. Many of you are experiencing similar restrictions in freedom of movement in order to limit the further spread of this virus.
Critical actions students need to take
In addition, we need students to avoid private gatherings such as having friends over for socializing, allowing guests to sleep over in their homes or apartments, and meeting for “end of the week” celebrations.
We continue to hear from local neighbors and community members that there are student gatherings of more than 10 people or smaller gatherings where students are not staying at least 6′ apart. We need you to stress to your students that they should avoid gathering with friends in ways that do not respect social distancing measures.
Why social distancing is so necessary right now
These social distancing measures are especially critical for those most at risk for complications from this virus, including the elderly and individuals with underlying medical problems including asthma, abnormal immune systems and diabetes (problems that are not rare in our students). Social distancing measures are sometimes hard for us to understand and can be difficult to follow. Our students, who develop strong social bonds with their friends and classmates here at Wake Forest, may struggle to establish new and effective ways to be engaged socially with each other in light of these public health restrictions.
Please talk with your student about how they are negotiating these social distancing requirements. Discuss ways you have been able to remain connected to your friends while maintaining a “safe” distance. It is important for all of us, especially in the next month, to be diligent about following the public health recommendations.
The health and wellbeing of our students is of paramount importance to the University. Thank you for working with us to help your student and our community to remain safe during this pandemic.
Cecil D. Price, MD
Director, Student Health Service