This message was sent on behalf of President Hatch.

Dear Wake Forest faculty and staff,

This week marks one month since we started classes on campus in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. While other institutions determined it best to remain completely virtual and some fellow schools were forced to take drastic measures early on, we have been fortunate to reach this milestone. It is with my utmost gratitude and simple humility that I thank you for everything you have done to get us to this point.

In a few months, we reinvented every aspect of University life. No office, department or role has gone unchanged. We have had to reimagine every function — often with the contingency of delivering the same quality with limited resources. The challenges we are facing are not easy; they are multi-faceted and get more complex with every layer we peel back.

The demand these circumstances have put on you is not lost on me. I see the late nights and early mornings that you give to Wake Forest when you are already beyond exhaustion. I understand that you are going the extra mile — reaching beyond your typical job scope and often outside your comfort zone — to make sure our community continues to succeed. I know that you are taking on many other roles and responsibilities outside of Wake Forest and yet still giving this institution your best. And I realize that what we thought might be a short-term sprint is turning into a marathon with more hills than we thought.

I have told Julie several times that in the midst of the challenge and uncertainty, there have been many blessings in these circumstances. We have learned to rely on one another in new ways. We have plumbed the depths of our endurance and found that we were capable of more than we thought. We have sharpened our resolve, explored our creativity and renewed our love for this community. We are here, delivering on our promise of a transformational experience for our students, because of you.

Our progress so far has been very encouraging, and I believe that we can sustain it. We are seeing good news on the public health front. I’m grateful for the public health partners and experts who are offering their wisdom as we make decisions. Late last week, Dr. Chris Ohl, an infectious disease expert at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and one of our key advisors, shared his perspective on the number of positive cases on campus. In his message, he explains why the single number of positive tests is not and should not be our focus of concern. I encourage you to listen to his explanation and advice for our community.

We continue to share our community’s public health outlook on the COVID-19 dashboard. We are making updates to this information and will continue to add more insight and context to our community’s standing. Among other things, included in our next iteration of the dashboard will be a separate look at our random testing statistics.

I believe that if the first four weeks are any indication, I am confident that we have the ability to remain on campus to Thanksgiving. Students want to be here, and we want them here. I think you will agree that their presence on campus — learning and engaging together, however modified — is one thing that seems somewhat normal as we forge through these uncertain times. It will take our continued and concerted effort to adhere to public health guidelines, and while it may grow tiresome, we have to remind ourselves and our students to wear masks, stay six feet apart, gather in small groups and wash hands. These are the practices that are making it possible for us to be here; this is working.

While we remain committed to staying on campus to Thanksgiving, we are also anticipating the spring and what that will bring. Our scenario planning teams are engaged in planning for the spring semester. Offices and departments are considering what it will take to deliver the Wake Forest experience in the months to come, and with that, we are forced to unravel what short- and long-term challenges may lie ahead for us. Looking to the future, we will have to plan, prepare and execute in less than ideal circumstances. We will have to be flexible and creative in our spaces again. We will have to reignite our imaginations and rely on one another to find solutions.

Four weeks ago, we had a good plan and one another’s goodwill. That is just what we needed to succeed. I am abundantly grateful for the extra effort you have contributed, and the enthusiasm and energy you bring in the midst of challenge. Thank you for all you are doing — seen and unseen — to help Wake Forest.

Please take good care of yourselves and continue to stay healthy and safe.

With gratitude,

Nathan O. Hatch