A message from President Krista L. Newkirk:
We are all looking forward to the Fourth of July this weekend, and celebrating with family and friends. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) released a statement yesterday recommending residents make safe, responsible plans for celebrating the Fourth of July holiday, which include festivities at home, and watching firework shows virtually.
DHEC also reiterated their support of group activities that have been canceled across the state in order to protect their communities from the spread of COVID-19, stating that more and more of South Carolina’s positive cases are those who participated in group gatherings without keeping a safe distance from others or wearing masks.
When we evaluated potential scenarios earlier in the spring, we anticipated that the social distancing requirements would result in a flattening of the curve and fewer cases of COVID-19 over the summer. Currently, we are seeing steady increases in the number of COVID-19 cases and in the percent of positive tests. This has caused us to reevaluate what we can do to ensure that we do not contribute to this spread and that Converse can resume classes in person this August. Given that DHEC has recommended that people not participate in large gatherings, even if those gatherings are outside and with face coverings, we had to reconsider our plans for Commencement.
We have made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person Commencement on August 1. We recognize the disappointment that this change may cause. We are working on special celebrations for our 2020 senior class – both undergraduate and graduate – for you to return to campus once we are able to safely resume large gatherings again. We will be in touch with you to develop plans for the future and will share those details in the coming weeks. We hope you will mark your calendars for your one-year reunion celebration (June 4-6, 2021), and plan to join us on campus during that time.
What you do now will influence your health and the health of others in the weeks to come. DHEC reports that young people are increasingly testing positive for the virus. South Carolina has seen a 966% increase in newly reported cases among those aged 11 to 20 and a 413% increase in those between 21-30. The virus is spreading very easily and sustainably between people, including those who are asymptomatic. Your actions matter.
A lack of social distancing and mask-wearing is contributing to the increasing numbers in South Carolina. Please, if you must go out, wear a mask or face covering, stay six feet from others, and wash your hands often. If you are ill, stay at home. Together we must do our part to protect our communities from further spread of COVID-19. We want to see you back on campus this fall.
Have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July holiday!