COVID-19 Spread on Campus

To: W&L Students, Faculty, Staff, and Parents
From: President Will Dudley
Date: Jan. 27, 2021

Throughout this unpredictable year, I have emphasized the value of our being together on campus.  I have also stressed the need to prevent COVID-19 from overwhelming our capacity to house, feed, and care for our students.  The current rate of viral transmission is pushing these limits.  We need to reduce infections and close contacts if our students are going to remain at W&L.

We have 39 active student cases, 27 of them new since Saturday.  Because each infected student has numerous close contacts, 162 students are isolating or in quarantine.  Close to 60% of our on-campus I/Q beds are full, and our contact tracing efforts are strained.

To address these challenges, we are adding I/Q capacity at local hotels and training additional contact tracers.  We have ordered KN95 masks for all students, faculty, and staff.  There is no evidence of the virus spreading in our classrooms, and faculty may continue to teach in person. 

W&L’s COVID-19 environment level is now Red, with new restrictions in place until further notice:

  • Gatherings are limited to 6 people, indoors and out.
  • No visitors are allowed in undergraduate residences, on or off-campus.
  • Athletic practice/competition is paused.

I do not relish imposing these unwelcome restrictions, which are not intended to be punitive.  These are simply what we must do to slow the virus and preserve the possibility of remaining on campus.  The coming days will be critical, particularly with first-year students returning to Lexington.  If these measures prove insufficient, we may need to take further action, including de-densifying our campus.

Success is within our control:  Wear a mask.  Keep your distance.  Limit your contacts.  If we are vigilant about these simple steps, the enhanced restrictions will be short-lived.  I am excited to welcome all of you back to W&L and the last thing I want to do is send our students home.

I share your eagerness for normal campus life.  I share your weariness and frustration with the unnatural constraints imposed by this virus.  We can do this.  Vaccines are on their way and offer the prospect of relief.  In the meantime, let us each resolve to do our part, so that we may remain together and make the most of the opportunities we do have in this undeniably difficult situation.