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Monday, November 2, 2020

Date: November 2, 2020

Last week, senior staff gathered to revise our COVID-19 rules. The basics are still there: wash hands, wear masks, and physically distance. Outside is still safer than inside (masks should be worn anytime one comes within six feet of another person). Students may create “bubbles” for socialization — small groups that share similar practices. Some items have been added: Travel is discouraged, but if one does take a domestic flight (as I did two weeks ago), one should practice a more disciplined form of social distancing (take to-go meals and attend class only online) for five days upon return. And finally, when asked to appear for random testing, do so promptly (starting this week). People in the United States seem to divide into those who think the whole thing is “overblown” (perhaps even a hoax) and those who think this is the Black Death. At the Seminary, we have taken the guidance of the authorities very seriously. To go for “herd immunity” would be reckless and lead to deaths that could have been prevented and would be premature. We are trying to create an environment such that even if someone has COVID, others are unlikely to get it. The virus will almost certainly be with us for the entire academic year (I am not anticipating the Spring will be any different from now). If we had simply closed down, lay offs would have been forced on us. If we had allowed everyone to do anything, then we would have become a hot spot. We have aspired to create a low risk environment where we can all work and live safely. One interesting feature of my conversations with the other presidents in the Washington Theological Consortium was the news that thus far this academic year, there have been zero positive cases across all our institutions. This is good. At least among the Christians in the United States, we are seeking to model responsible community. And as our Lord observed, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). God willing, this is what we are modeling and this is what the world is learning. The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D. Dean and President

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