To: Luther College students, parents, faculty, staff, regents, emeriti, and alumni
From: President Jenifer K. Ward
Re: COVID-19 update on plans for spring break, distance learning, college-sponsored travel, and campus events
Date: March 12, 2020
Dear Members of the Luther Community,
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to be a global pandemic. Presently, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Luther College or in Winneshiek County and the City of Decorah; 16 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Iowa by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). Over the past weeks, I, my Cabinet, and the Emergency Response Team have activated and begun to implement Luther College’s Pandemic Response Plan. During this time, we have also consulted with Winneshiek County Public Health, the IDPH, the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, academic department heads, the Academic Planning Committee, and the Faculty Organization Committee in order to formulate plans and prepare the campus community.
The foremost goals of the Pandemic Response Plan are to protect the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff and to continue the educational mission of the college through the pandemic period. We are especially mindful of our responsibilities and obligations to protect the most vulnerable members of our campus and local communities in the early days of this new situation. Additionally, our faculty and staff need time to address the many details that go into planning for alternative ways of delivering our educational services. While the measures mentioned below do not offer a protective shield around Luther College or Decorah, they will allow us to begin to adjust to a new reality. Therefore, I and my Cabinet, in consultation with the Board of Regents, have made the following decisions, effective Monday, March 16 through Monday, April 13. Please understand that these actions may be extended or revised, based on changing conditions.
We understand that each individual has a unique level of risk tolerance, and that some individuals might have reached different determinations regarding these developments. Please understand that we are, in this instance, faced with decisions that have an impact on community risk and public health. Luther College has a responsibility to do its part to “flatten the curve” and help prevent our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed. These decisions will not only help protect individual and community health but also provide Luther College the continued opportunity to assess the spread of COVID-19 and to make measured responses, to practice social distancing, and to test our distance learning pedagogies. As individuals, you also can do your part by practicing preventive actions and by thoughtfully reconsidering and limiting personal travel during these next few weeks.
We are living in an uncertain time and we don’t have answers to all of the questions right now. But here are some things that I do know. I know that over these past weeks I have witnessed a profound testament to the power of a liberal arts education, as we have worked creatively together amidst ambiguity to find collaborative solutions. I know that our way of learning has equipped us to understand and confront a changing society, even one facing a pandemic. I know that we are called to challenge one another to learn in community and that as a community we will learn from this challenge. I know that our community is strong and committed to serving with distinction for the common good. And I know that our community will stay strong and committed during this time and beyond.
For more information on COVID-19 and its prevalence in Iowa visit the CDC and IDPH web pages. If you have questions regarding Luther’s response please consult Luther’s Health Advisories webpage or contact the Student Life Office (563-387-1020; [email protected]) or Health Services (563-387-1045). You can also call the IDPH information line 24/7 at 2-1-1 with any questions.
Dr. Jenifer K. Ward, President