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Safe Together, Strong Together interim report available

Campus begins 30 day countdown for return to learning

On Friday, July 17, 2020 CMU published the Safe Together, Strong Together (ST2) interim report. The document highlights the milestones of CMU's response to COVID-19 and lays out the framework for responding to the pandemic in the future.

In publishing the ST2 report, CMU reiterated the moral imperative of higher education that is embedded in the mission of the university. When the university's pandemic response began, President Tim Foster described this moral imperative. Foster explained that halting higher education will undermine the very institutions that enable today's global response to the pandemic. Foster also explained that students currently enrolled in engineering, agriculture, healthcare and other relevant disciplines are the people who will respond to whatever challenges humanity faces in the future.

"The pandemic is an opportunity for universities to reconnect with their foundational purpose and move forward responsibly with a renewed commitment to sustaining civil society," said Foster. "The stakes are high — both for our country and our university — and continuing to transform lives and deliver knowledge is something we must do."

Beyond the moral foundation of CMU's return to campus planning effort, Foster believes practical, specific, operational components of the plan are central to its success.

"Hundreds of people have invested thousands of hours planning for the reinstatement of in-person learning at CMU," said Foster. "Despite our best efforts, we know our plan will not stop COVID-19 and the plan will not result in CMU being spared from impacts from the virus. The plan does establish a framework for mitigating impacts, minimizing spread and reinforcing the human-based reasons for higher education continuing even during crises."

The ST2 plan outlines three phases of campus reopening that began with a pilot in June 2020 and will complete when students arrive on campus in one month.

"We published the interim report recognizing today begins a 30-day countdown to classes," said Co-Chair and CMU Vice President John Marshall. "The coming weeks are critical, and we're well-positioned for opening thanks to the fortitude and creativity of our faculty and administrative staff."

ST2 Task Force Co-Chair Amy Bronson, EdD, is also the director of CMU's Physician Assistant Studies program and reiterated the basis of the planning initiative. She explained that nowhere is the importance of a return to learning more visible than in the healthcare and medical based disciplines.

"The medical community already faces shortages in physician assistants, nurses, primary care physicians and a litany of other medical fields and services," said Bronson. "Taking a two-year hiatus from producing the next generation of medical practitioners would exacerbate this challenge and isn't a choice. CMU's goal is to maximize safety and mitigations that allow learning to continue even in a world where COVID-19 is likely a protracted problem."

Students, parents, faculty, staff and community members are encouraged to review the interim report and supply feedback during the final 30 days of the planning process. Campus leaders will continue to update the plan as new state and local health orders are issued.

Marshall concluded CMU would focus much of its efforts in the final days on fine-tuning the details of CMU's COVID-19 testing, symptom tracking and contact tracing protocols.

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Written by David Ludlam