As We End the Semester's First Week...

To the Case Western Reserve Community:

Today marks the first time since March 6, 2020, that we have completed a full week of all in-person classes at Case Western Reserve University. 

After nearly 18 months of navigating uncertainty, concern and, with vaccines, increasing optimism, we finally have all come together on our physical campus. To each of you we say: Congratulations—and thank you.

Every member of our community played a role in reaching this moment—from housing to health services, facilities to custodial services, to all of our faculty and staff directly involved in our education and research missions. We commend you.

In addition to fulfilling your respective responsibilities, you also complied with our vaccine verification policy; as of today, fewer than 10 members of the community have yet to engage with the policy. This figure means that we are, in essence, at 100 percent compliance—including 2 percent with religious or medical accommodations. The remainder are fully vaccinated (two weeks from a final dose) or in the process of becoming fully vaccinated.

Nevertheless, we also recognize that no single approach—even the most extensive and elaborate—can provide perfect protection. Last week’s positivity rate for surveillance testing (Aug. 16-22), was 0.4 percent; between surveillance and symptomatic testing, we had 38 positive cases. Starting Tuesday (Aug. 31), we will post updated figures each week on our university dashboard.

Each positive case has at least some effect on others. True, COVID-19 vaccinations have dramatically reduced the likelihood of transmission—and even if people are infected, their symptoms are far less severe. Nevertheless, as part of our commitment to protect the campus, we continue to notify all individuals whose exposure merits action—from monitoring closely for symptoms, to monitoring and testing, to those measures plus different levels of quarantines. If you have not been notified, it means that health services’ assessment of the circumstances shows that you are not considered to be at significant risk of exposure.

We realize that receiving notice of a possible exposure is at best unsettling, even among those already fully vaccinated. Please remember, however, that our University Health Services staff has extensive experience in managing COVID-19 on campus, and continues to consult widely with local and national experts—including members of our faculty. Our notification protocols reflect an “abundance of caution” approach, even as we adapt the specific guidance to reflect our high vaccination rates. This practice can cause immense worry for students whose level of exposure requires that they miss classes; our expectation is that each faculty member's highest priority will be to aid these students to ensure that they remain current in their courses. The Office of the Provost will provide additional details about options in a subsequent communication.

In the meantime, we urge everyone to remember that the Delta variant is more than two times as contagious as the COVID-19 strain experienced this winter. Our mitigation measures—including those for events—help reduce that risk, but only if they are followed. Through our collective efforts, we achieved a significant milestone this week; with continued collaboration, we will achieve even greater progress in learning and discovery.

Eric W. Kaler

Ben Vinson III