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Columbus State University

June 30, 2020 - Message from President Markwood

Good afternoon,

You have probably heard that instances of COVID-19 are on the rise across the state of Georgia. Total coronavirus infections in Columbus have more than doubled since the beginning of the month. Hospitalizations have tracked much along the same lines. In fact, according to reporting from the Ledger-Enquirer, coronavirus cases per capita in Columbus are higher than in cities of similar size like Savannah and Augusta. Because of this alarming state-wide prognosis, we announced last week that CSU is extending Stage 1 of our Return to Campus Schedule.

Yesterday, Governor Kemp signed a new COVID-19 executive order extending the state’s public health emergency through Aug. 11. Our Stage 2 was previously scheduled to begin on July 1, but because of the recent increase in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in and around the Columbus area, we have opted to continue operating on a flex telework schedule for staff, with faculty continuing on a 100% telework schedule.

We will continue to communicate with the USG, the Georgia Department of Public Health, the Columbus Consolidated Government, and the mayor’s office, and announce our revised start date of Stage 2 as soon as we have a firmer grasp of the ever-evolving situation.

Governor Kemp also signed an executive order extending distancing, sanitation, and other relevant procedures to which businesses across the state must adhere. While he stopped short of mandating the wearing of face masks, he did encourage Georgians to wear them in public, as well as to continue practicing social distancing and the frequent washing of hands.

At this time, CSU cannot mandate that employees or students wear face covering or masks while on campus, but we strongly encourage everyone to do so. According to the CDC website: "Wearing a cloth face covering will help protect people around you, including those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and workers who frequently come into close contact with other people (e.g., in stores and restaurants). Cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings. The spread of COVID-19 can be reduced when cloth face coverings are used along with other preventive measures, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces."

I urge everyone to approach these safety measures — especially wearing a face covering or mask — as an opportunity to practice one of our core values: Servant Leadership. At its heart, servant leadership is about caring for others. Wearing a face covering or mask is not a sign of weakness, it is an act of empathy. It demonstrates that we are willing to endure a modicum of discomfort or inconvenience for the greater good of friends, family, faculty, staff, students, and the strangers we encounter every day. We must be good servant leader citizens to safely navigate this strange, once-in-a-lifetime moment.

Columbus State University has built its reputation and identity as a campus that cares for people, a campus that invests in people, and a campus that seeks to help every member of our campus community to be their best selves. Wearing a face covering or mask helps keep others safe and I can think of few greater acts of selflessness during this time than helping to keep your colleagues and our students safe. This means we all have to take personal responsibility for our actions and be disciplined in our behavior.

We have ordered CSU branded masks for all faculty, staff, and students and will be distributing them as we reopen. I choose to wear one for you, for my family, and for our community. I ask that you join me.

For us, this fight has now become very personal. One of Bridget’s uncles in Massachusetts contracted the virus, is now on Hospice care and not expected to survive the week.

We are all in this together, and to conquer COVID-19, we are all going to have to work together. Our campus community is strong, smart, creative, and driven — I have no doubt that we will rise to the occasion and come out of this on the other side better people, better leaders, and a better institution in all facets.

For the time being, remember that as we move forward, the only unerring constant will be unending change. As new information is made available to us, we will pass it on to you. For updates, please visit our Return to Campus website for the latest information: https://www.columbusstate.edu/covid-response/.

And if you have any questions, please send them to our portal: https://columbusstate.formstack.com/forms/returning_to_campus_ideas_and_questions.

As always, I am grateful for and inspired by your patience and flexibility as we navigate the unchartered waters of the coronavirus crisis. Please continue to stay engaged with one another, and we will meet and defeat the challenges we face —together.

Thanks again for all you do for our students, our community, and for each other.

President Chris Markwood