May 10 Message to Faculty/Staff: Now... and Then

To Our Faculty and Staff:

Just over two months ago, Cuyahoga County confirmed its first cases of COVID-19. The following day we announced our transition to remote learning—and, three days later, the shift to remote work.

That week was full of worry. About helping students get to where they needed to be, and trying to support faculty moving to an entirely new way of teaching.

Now, looking back, that time feels like the easy part.

The next step, planning for a full return in the fall, is much tougher.

It demands that we all accept some uncertainty. Sit a bit with our anxiety. Recognize that more than 100 days stand between now and scheduled start of the semester—a window certain to include yet more change.

As much as we all want fully formed plans right away, crafting good ones takes time, and solid information.

And so for now, many questions cannot be answered.

How exactly will the university keep us safe? Will we have enough masks, sanitizer and social distance? What if someone in my area tests positive—what happens then?

For those with a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) risk factor, big decisions without small details are especially excruciating.

They feel distress about in-person teaching. Others worry about the difficulty of dual-delivery instruction. And plenty with children question how they can come to work with camps and daycares still closed.

News from the past few weeks does not help. We see states taking disparate approaches to re-opening, officials warning of possible new surges, and conflicting accounts about tests’ availability cannot help but create concerns.

Yet we also must remember that some 600 staff—from areas like public safety, facilities, and custodial—have been here all along. They have been joined by a significant number of COVID-19-focused researchers, and Bon Appetit employees. They came every day, even though we were just beginning to gather masks and other supplies. And we are so grateful.

We do have some information: As of this writing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given emergency use authorization (EUA) to use one existing medication to treat COVID-19, and more than six dozen clinical trials are ongoing. The FDA also issued EUAs for 90 diagnostic tests—including, last week, an at-home saliva test. Plus, nearly 400 other organizations have told the FDA they will be seeking emergency approvals for tests.

We cannot yet say if any of these measures will work. For those that do, gaps can exist between efficacy and wide availability. Still, the information raises an important point: What is now will be far different than what will be when fall classes begin.

We appreciate that these are scary times, and ambiguity only makes them worse. But specifics offered now likely would be moot within weeks. What is certain is that we will keep consulting with local and national experts, and continue to engage faculty and staff across the campus.

We will communicate with you when we can, as often as we can. And, when we do, the information will be as definitive as it can be for that moment.

Each of these decisions demand careful thought—and, sometimes, reconsideration. They are too important—you are too important—for us to rush.

I appreciate your patience, and wish every one of you good health.

Barbara R. Snyder