CORONAVIRUS UPDATE ARCHIVE
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March 16, 2021
We have heard the distress expressed by many students regarding the mental health of the campus. We understand how the changes and uncertainties brought by the pandemic have affected stress levels. Administration wants you to know that we share your concerns, and we have seriously considered the request of many students to accommodate mental health days this semester as one way of helping relieve stress.
After listening to students and faculty as well as considering the number of classroom hours required by our accreditors to award academic credit, the university will add a mental health day to this semester on Friday, April 23. On this day, classes will be cancelled. Faculty are also not to schedule assignments or assessments of any kind to be due from April 23 through April 25. Campus offices will still be open on that day to serve students.
We recognize that adding one day off from classes will not fully address the needs of all students. By providing a Friday, we do hope the student body will benefit from a longer weekend of rest and rejuvenation. Additionally those with specific mental health needs should consider using the counseling services and programming designed to help with mental health. Find out about mental health services by visiting the links below and check back for more upcoming programs yet to be scheduled.
David Smith, president
Southern Adventist University
March 11, 2021
Dear Campus Family,
One year ago today, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and life as we knew it turned upside down. Since then, despite all the challenges, you have persevered, and I want to take a moment to thank you.
Thank you for being flexible while plans changed daily. Thank you for being a supporting community for each other through difficult times. Thank you for adjusting to all the new protocols and inconveniences, because you knew it was a collective effort. Thank you for sharing encouraging words and prayers with me and with others—it means more than you will ever know!
Together, and through God’s grace, we have made it three quarters of the way through this school year, and we anticipate finishing the year strong. There are still challenges ahead, but I am confident that God will see us through.
As we look ahead, please join me in praying for God’s continued guidance, protection, and care for each member of the Southern family.
David Smith, president
March 3, 2021
Many Southern students and employees may be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning on Monday, March 8. Tennessee is opening phase 1c, which includes those 16-years-old and older with high-risk health conditions. According to the Tennessee Vaccine Plan, this includes:
- Chronic renal disease
- COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, Cystic Fibrosis, moderate-severe asthma
- Obesity (BMI >30)
- Heart failure, CAD, cardiomyopathies, hypertension
- Sickle cell (not including sickle cell trait) or thalassemia
- Cerebrovascular disease or stroke
- Liver disease
- Immunocompromised or weak immune system (receiving chemotherapy, taking daily oral steroid or other immunosuppressant medication, living with HIV/AIDS, history of organ, blood or bone marrow transplant)
- Technologically dependent (such as individuals who are ventilator dependent, oxygen-dependent, with tracheostomy, chronically wheelchair-bound, require tube feedings, parenteral nutrition, or dialysis)
- Caregivers (or household residents) of medically fragile children <16 years old (such as technologically dependent individuals, immunocompromised individuals, individuals with diabetes requiring medication, individuals with complex congenital or life-threatening cardiac conditions requiring ongoing medical management, individuals qualifying for a Katie Beckett waiver)
Additionally, anyone 65+ or who falls into one of the previously open phases will continue to be eligible for the vaccine.
While Southern does not require the vaccine, we strongly encourage those who are eligible to consider getting it. This not only protects you but those around you.
As of this afternoon, the county has opened up new appointments for any eligible person, including those in the phase opening Monday. However, these are expected to fill up quickly, so we encourage you to sign up soon. If you miss these appointment, you can sign up for their email list to find out about upcoming appointments.
February 23, 2021
New Campus COVID Testing Site
To make COVID-19 testing more accessible, the University Health Center has opened a new testing center on campus.
Where: Hulsey Wellness Center
Open: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Monday through Friday
Who: Any student, employee, or employee’s immediate family member who is symptom free, is not testing because of exposure, or has only had low-risk classroom exposure can be tested in this facility.*
Type of Test: These are self-administered RT-PCR tests and results are available in 1-3 days.
*Those with symptoms or exposure should call the University Health Center (423.236.2713) to be tested.
COVID-19 On-Call Nurse
During the pandemic, the University Health Center has scheduled a nurse to be on call 24/7 for COVID-19 or respiratory illness symptoms that may require urgent medical consultation, such as new onset symptoms of illness or worsening of symptoms of illness. If you are experiencing a health emergency and need immediate assistance, please call 911.
The on-call nurse is NOT able to schedule appointments, handle prescription medication concerns, or release individuals from quarantine/isolation. For these and all other non-urgent questions and concerns, please call 423.236.2713 during regular business hours: Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
The county has opened a new phase of vaccination. Anyone 65+ or who teaches K-12 (including student teachers) can now receive their vaccination. Additionally, a new, closer vaccination site has opened at Enterprise South Nature Park. To find out more or make an appointment, visit the Hamilton County Health Department’s website.
February 18, 2021
At this point in the pandemic, with more contagious variants spreading rapidly, extra vigilance is necessary. We’d like to particularly emphasize the following guidelines:
NO FOOD AT EVENTS
Any time you take off your mask near others, you risk catching or spreading COVID-19. Because you can’t eat with a mask on, food cannot be served at events.
AVOID HOME GATHERINGS
We are seeing increased transmission of COVID-19 from home gatherings. People tend to let their guard down in a relaxed home environment, forgetting to keep physical distance, removing their masks, and eating together. Don’t do it!
WEAR A MASK, EVEN OUTDOORS
If you are near others, whether walking, sitting, or playing sports, wear a mask. Yes, even outdoors.
More details about these and other policies can be found at southern.edu/covid19policy.
February 15, 2021
Vaccine = No Quarantine
Following an update to the Hamilton County Health Department’s guidelines, vaccinated individuals who are exposed to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet certain criteria, such as being fully vaccinated and remaining asymptomatic after exposure.
Vaccinated individuals still need to follow Southern’s COVID-19 policies, such as physical distancing, wearing a face mask, and completing the daily health assessment.
Southern does not require a COVID-19 vaccination; however, we strongly encourage you to consider getting the vaccine as soon as you are eligible. Tennessee is following a phased vaccine distribution plan; currently, any employee or student involved in clinical activity is eligible for the vaccine, as well as those age 70 and older. To receive updates about eligibility, vaccination appointments, and other important information from the Hamilton County Health Department, sign up for their email updates.
Quarantine Numbers Added to Web
In response to your feedback, we have updated the southern.edu/cases web page to include quarantine numbers. The current numbers reflect a recent trend noted by the University Health Center: there has been a rise in larger friend groups gathering together for game nights and/or meals, which is leading to more people needing to quarantine.
Please remember that the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 and avoid needing to quarantine is to continue faithfully keeping physical distance, wearing masks, limiting gathering sizes, and all of the other protocols. We know you are tired of them, but we are not out of the woods yet! The newer, more contagious variants of the coronavirus make these measures that much more important.
You can find answers to many of your questions on the Student FAQ web page, which is updated regularly and features questions and answers added in the last week. If you have questions that are not answered there, please write to email@example.com. Additionally, if you missed the student town hall meeting on February 3, you can watch the recording at the link sent to your Southern email account.
February 1, 2021
We invite all current Southern students to join President Smith, other administrators, and University Health Center personnel for a one-hour virtual Town Hall specifically for you on February 3 at 6 p.m. (ET). Topics will include Southern’s prospects of remaining on campus this semester, clarification on the one-week timeline, our campus contingency plan, COVID-19 accountability, class attendance expectations, enrichment credits, and more.
- You can submit your questions before the meeting at southern.edu/question. You will also have the option to submit questions via Zoom during the meeting.
- This Town Hall will use the Zoom webinar platform to allow for more participants.
Enrichment credit will be given based on the name you use to enter the meeting.
- (Check your Southern email account for the Zoom link)
In the meantime, here are answers to two commonly asked questions:
WHAT QUALIFIES AS AN EXCUSED ABSENCE?
To help clarify this question, please see the attached chart. In a nutshell, any student who feels unwell, has symptoms, or is experiencing anxiety can call the University Health Center (UHC) at 423.236.2713. After evaluating the situation, the UHC may provide a letter excusing the student from class that day. The student must send the letter to his or her professors within 24 hours, and that absence will be excused. Those in quarantine and isolation are also excused and must notify their professors.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF SOMEONE IS OUT OF COMPLIANCE?
Every member of our campus community has the responsibility to hold each other accountable. This is outlined in the COVID-19 Policies and Procedures beginning on page 7. If you see a student, professor, staff member, or visitor who is not following Southern’s safety policies, kindly bring this to the individual’s attention. When this personal approach is not possible, then report to the appropriate person:
- Students should report situations involving students or employees to Lisa Hall, dean of students
- Employees should report situations involving students to Lisa Hall and those involving other employees with their own supervisors
Our goal is to work together to have a safe semester on campus. We take this seriously. Continued failure to cooperate may result in dismissal for both students and employees.
January 26, 2021
Dear Campus Family,
I apologize that some of you who tried to sign in for today’s 11 a.m. emergency meeting were unable to enter the meeting because we reached the maximum capacity. (The link to a recording of the meeting was sent to your Southern email.)
We are at a tipping point in whether or not we will be able to stay on campus for the rest of the semester. One week into this new semester, our biggest challenge is non-compliance. We are disappointed to learn about students who have not been honest in reporting their COVID-19 symptoms and exposures. Our contact tracing team has found that some students who have tested positive are not identifying everyone they have exposed. Faculty who have not provided seating charts have added to the difficulties of contact tracing. It also seems that more students are choosing to not wear masks or keep a safe distance from others.
Your vigilance in upholding Southern’s safety protocols is critical. This includes proper mask wearing, physical distancing, reporting symptoms, and participating in contact tracing. Without this cooperation the university will not be able to remain in-person for the duration of the semester.
Some have questioned the use of the word “emergency” in Monday’s announcement. Leadership believes this is an emergency because of the serious circumstances affecting the safety of campus. It is quite urgent that we increase our compliance immediately in order to continue with an in-person learning experience.
I appreciate all those who are following our safety measures. Many of you are doing all that you can to keep our campus safe, and I am extremely grateful.
In addition to your own commitment to safety, please encourage those around you to take this situation seriously and to participate honestly in these protective measures. Last semester, through God’s grace, we were able to complete the term as planned. We have confidence that if we all do our part, God will once again bless our efforts.
PS If you have additional questions, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will provide answers via email.
January 12, 2021
The new semester is right around the corner, and we look forward to seeing you on campus soon! Knowing that there have been some changes since Fall, we want to make sure you have the opportunity to get your questions answered.
You are invited to a Q&A session on Zoom with President David Smith, PhD, on Thursday, January 14, at 6 p.m. EST. Please submit your questions at southern.edu/question by noon on Thursday.
(Check your Southern email account for the Zoom link.)
January 12, 2021
As we gear up for the Winter 2021 semester at Southern Adventist University, your health and safety continue to be our highest priority. Several policies and procedures have been updated, so we want to make you aware of important information to consider as you return to campus:
- GIFT CARD: Southern is offering a $50 gift card as an incentive to get tested before arriving on campus. In case you missed the email with details, you can read it in the Coronavirus Update Archive.
- TESTING CAPACITY: The University Health Center has increased their testing capacity, and throughout the semester, any student or employee who wishes to be tested can make an appointment for a free test. Priority for appointments will be given to students who are sick or who have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19.
Do Not Come to Campus Sick
If you do not feel well and have not yet arrived on campus this semester, please stay in place until having consulted with the University Health Center. If you test positive for COVID-19, you should not return to campus until the University Health Center has cleared you to return. You should follow the quarantine and isolation protocols and work with your professors to receive accommodations. If this delays your flight plans, you should pursue a free ticket change with your air carrier. If fees are still incurred, the university will reimburse your ticket change fees up to $200. You can send flight change fee receipts to email@example.com.
Currently COVID-19 vaccinations in the State of Tennessee are limited and being administered in a voluntary, phased program; students participating in clinical activities are eligible and can obtain a letter from their clinical department coordinator as proof. The Hamilton County Health Department is giving the vaccines on certain days of the week for qualifying individuals. For more information, please visit their COVID-19 Vaccine website. Currently the University Health Center is not administering COVID-19 vaccines, as it is not an approved site for emergency distribution.
Quarantine and Isolation Procedures
Based on the latest Health Department recommendations and data collected last semester, the University Health Center has updated the quarantine and isolation policy to minimize quarantine’s impact on the student body while still being safe and effective. View Southern’s updated COVID-19 Policy and Procedures document for full details.
During the Fall 2020 semester, there was some confusion about Southern’s attendance policy. On December 17, Academic Administration sent out an email providing clarity for the Winter 2021 semester. You can read the email in the Coronavirus Update Archive or review the policy.
Your participation in spiritual, cultural, and educational programming outside the classroom is an important part of your well-rounded experience at Southern. Because of this, a modified Enrichment Credit program will resume this semester. Due to COVID-19, the following adjustments have been put in place:
- Required credits have been reduced.
- In-person attendance will not be necessary to meet the enrichment credit requirements. Credit will be given for online participation in qualifying events, such as vespers and Critical Conversations.
- No “Cultural Credits” will be required.
For more details, visit the Student Development website.
In This Together
We were thrilled to be able to stay on campus together as scheduled for the Fall 2020 semester! That was only possible because so many of you took the safety precautions seriously and worked together to keep campus healthy and safe. Thank you! As the pandemic wears on, it’s tempting to let our guard down, but hang in there. Continue to:
- Wear your mask
- Stay 6 feet from others
- Wash your hands often
- Clean and disinfect regularly
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Maintain your overall health: eat well (avoiding excess sugar and junk food), drink lots of water, spend time outside in the fresh air and sunshine, get plenty of exercise, and work to reduce stress
- Consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are eligible
- Monitor how you feel and DO NOT GO TO CLASS OR WORK if you have potential cold, flu, or COVID-19 symptoms; call the University Health Center (423.236.2713).
For the full, updated COVID-19 Policies and Procedures, visit southern.edu/covid19policy. Please remember that it is your responsibility under the Covenant of Care to be familiar with these safety measures and abide by them.
We anticipate a fun and meaningful semester and can’t wait for your soon return to campus. Thank you again for making Southern Adventist University your university of choice!
January 7, 2021
Happy New Year! We eagerly anticipate your return to the Southern community for Winter 2021. Looking ahead, I’m reminded of the Bible’s emphasis on the interconnectivity of the “body of Christ.” Each of us have been called to work together in unity and to look out for each other, “loving others as God loves them.”
Last semester, God blessed our collaborative efforts to stay safe and healthy, allowing us to remain together on campus, despite the pandemic. As we enter this new semester, we recognize the need for renewed vigilance so that we can start and end the school year strong!
Incentives for COVID-19 Testing Before Arrival
University administration and student leaders have wrestled with how to best provide an even safer campus experience as we come back together. Two ways that we believe we can do that are by expanding the amount of COVID-19 testing available on our campus throughout the semester and strongly encouraging every student and employee to test before returning to campus. We will give you a $50 Village Market gift card* to THANK YOU for taking that important test. Details follow.
Who is eligible for the gift card?
Every student can receive the $50 Village Market gift card by completing a COVID-19 test no more than five days before arriving on campus. Additionally, those who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days or have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine are also eligible for the gift card without a recent test.
How do I receive the gift card?
Upload documentation of your test or vaccine by visiting southern.edu/incentive. You can submit your documentation between Wednesday, January 13, and Thursday, January 21. After your documentation has been uploaded, you may pick up the gift card in the Student Center between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, beginning Thursday, January 14, until Friday, January 22. Please allow at least two hours after submitting your documentation before picking up your gift card.
When do I need to have the test?
You should complete the test no more than five days prior to your arrival back to campus. Plan so that your test results are in hand before your arrival. If you are already on campus, you must complete your test before classes begin. Tests are available at the University Health Center by appointment (priority given to those without transportation) or the Hamilton County testing facility. When testing at the Hamilton County Health Department, please take your Southern ID card and use it to inform them that you are a Southern student. Provide them with your address at Southern as well.
What if I haven’t received my test results before I return to campus?
We strongly encourage planning so that your test results arrive before coming to campus. However, if they have not arrived by your departure time, come to campus as planned. If the test results arrive before the January 21 submission deadline, you are still eligible for the gift card.
Will I need to quarantine while waiting for my test results?
During the period before January 21, if you do not have symptoms or COVID-19 exposure, Southern will not require you to quarantine while waiting for your test results.
What if I test positive for COVID-19?
If you test positive, you should stay at your current location and not return to campus until the University Health Center has cleared you to return. You should follow the quarantine and isolation protocols and work with your professors to receive accommodations. If this delays your flight plans, you should pursue a free ticket change with your air carrier. If fees are still incurred, the university will reimburse your ticket change fees up to $200. You can send flight change fee receipts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What type of test do I need?
We will accept a PCR or a rapid antigen test. We will not accept an antibody test.
What does it cost to get a COVID-19 test?
It varies by where you get tested. However, your county health department should provide free testing. Keep in mind that for some counties you will need to make an appointment.
What if I have additional questions about testing?
The email address email@example.com has been created specifically to cover any questions you may have.
We realize testing right before arriving on campus may be challenging given the timeframe, but the national and global surge of COVID-19 cases during the holidays makes it more urgent than ever to take as many precautions as possible to start the year with a healthy campus. We urge you to be tested for the safety of those traveling alongside you and for your Southern family.
Please consider taking us up on this incentive and getting tested before arriving so that, together, we get the semester off to a good start. I’m looking forward to seeing you back on campus and witnessing how God works in and through you over the next few months.
May God bless you,
*Please be aware that if you are employed by Southern, this gift card is a taxable item. You will see the tax deducted via payroll on the pay day following receipt of the gift card. If you have any questions about this, please direct them to Human Resources: firstname.lastname@example.org or 423.236.2823.
December 17, 2020
Dear Southern Students,
We look forward to welcoming each of you safely back to campus in 2021, and we hope you experience a healthy and joy-filled holiday. Following is helpful information about the past and upcoming semesters’ attendance policies.
As you know, the standing attendance policy was modified for the Fall 2020 semester. In order to ensure the safety of students, staff, and faculty due to the pandemic, the university adopted a policy of not connecting grades to student attendance during the fall semester. We did not remove the expectation of class attendance. With traditional attendance policies, some students feel compelled to attend class even when they are feeling unwell. When we adjusted course attendance policies for the Fall 2020 semester, our intention was to promote the health and safety of students and faculty by removing incentives for ill students to attend class. Under these guidelines, students were not to be penalized if they missed class due to illness. The amended policy was not intended to:
- Suggest that students did not need to attend class when they were well enough to do so, or
- Discourage students from attending class or engaging in face-to-face learning while healthy.
To the contrary, Southern’s faculty, staff, and administration wanted to give students the leeway to remain at home when they were ill, without the additional stress of pending grade penalty for absence. Additionally, we have put extensive effort into making in-person, face-to-face classroom learning safe and feasible.
Unfortunately, it appears that many students misunderstood the amended policy and were absent for reasons other than illness, which detrimentally affected learning environments and, in many cases, their grades. For this reason, Academic Administration and the University Senate collaborated to develop a revised policy for the Winter 2021 semester that resolved this issue while still addressing the need for safety. This policy incorporates the long-standing attendance policy (currently published in the 2020-2021 Undergraduate Catalog) with new directives that specifically indicate how attendance will be addressed during the COVID 19 pandemic for the Winter semester.
Following are the key items to note for the Winter 2021 attendance policy:
Virtual Class Option: For those students who cannot attend face-to-face classes for health reasons or are concerned about COVID-related safety, certain classes combining virtual and face-to-face delivery method will be offered.
- These classes will be determined by each university school or department before the semester of classes begins. If you have questions about this option, please contact Ms. Karon Powell (email@example.com) or Dr. Dionne Felix (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Students must submit a formal request to academic administration, by January 28, 2021, to enroll in these classes.
- Email your request to Dr. Dionne Felix (email@example.com), and
- State specifically why you need to take classes online.
Important Note: Please be mindful that not every class will have a virtual option. If you are sick, in quarantine or isolation, accommodations will be made for you. Again, you will need to communicate with your professors about your situation, and to make the necessary arrangements to complete all assignments. Permanently switching to virtual class options in the middle of the term will not be allowed, except in atypical circumstances, and with the appropriate approval from the university school or department and academic administration.
Your Academic Success: Class attendance is an important part of your academic success. Absences interrupt your academic progress, minimize student-to-student and student-to-professor interaction, and significantly diminish the value of your learning experience. While some absences are unavoidable, communicating with your professors is critical.
Absences do not excuse you from meeting the outlined class requirements. You are responsible for completing and submitting all assignments required for the class. If you must be absent, it is your responsibility to complete any work you have missed. To do so:
- Notify your professor(s) before absences from class or within 24 hours of the missed class period.
- Work with your professors on a plan to complete and submit outstanding work by an agreed-upon deadline.
- Complete outstanding work, and get caught up on instructional course content that you missed during your absence.
If you choose not to communicate with your professors, they cannot help you if they do not hear from you. Remember that regular absences from classes will result in negative grade outcomes.
To view the newly modified policy, click here.
Your health is still our priority. The effectiveness of this semester’s attendance policy will be assessed, including the impact on the mental and physical well-being of students, and the policy will be adjusted if the need to do so becomes apparent. We will continue to do all that we can to help you complete a healthy, academically successful semester.
Dr. Robert Young
Senior VP for Academic Administration
Dr. Dionne Felix
Associate VP for Academic Administration
Dean of Student Success and Retention
Dr. Tyson Hall
Associate VP for Academic Administration
Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies
December 15, 2020
Merry Christmas! This time of year reminds us of the joy of giving as we reflect on God's love to us through the gift of His Son. We pray that you will experience the power of God's salvation during this season. God has big plans for you, and I invite you to connect with Him in a deeper way as we begin the new year. Join our 21 Day Challenge for the New Year, beginning January 1. Click here for more details.
We wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy holiday season. We miss you on campus and look forward to seeing you in 2021!
Joseph Khabbaz, M.Div.
VP for Spiritual Life and Chaplain
October 6, 2020
I admire your perseverance through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I applaud your cooperation with the safety precautions we’re taking here at Southern. Together with God’s blessings, we will make it through these difficult times!
We are eager to have you here as part of our campus family next semester and want you to know about some changes regarding the academic calendar. Of specific note, classes will begin on Tuesday, January 19, and midterm break will be March 18-19. The full revised calendar can be found below. These adjustments were voted by Southern’s University Senate and Board of Trustees.
Why were these changes made? The Christmas and New Year’s holiday is historically a time of togetherness. While we expect that you will take precautions, we felt it was important to allow a full 14-day window of time for you to find out if you had been exposed to COVID-19 over the holidays, before returning to campus. This will help us start the semester as healthy and safely as possible so that we can continue face-to-face instruction for you.
Why not extend the semester by a week and keep spring break as scheduled? We need to keep the original end date for the winter semester in order for our summer terms to progress on schedule. Our goal is to return to a normal schedule for students as soon as possible.
When will the residence halls open? The residence halls will close on November 22 when students leave for Thanksgiving Break and will reopen on January 13. If you need an exception, such as international students or December-graduating seniors, please talk to Lisa Hall, dean of students. We will do our best to work alongside you to meet your needs.
What if I already have plans made and/or flights booked? We are truly sorry for the inconvenience the calendar adjustments may cause! As you may know, our academic calendar is usually decided 10 years ahead, so making a change of this magnitude is highly unusual. But such are the times we are living in; we join you in hoping to return to normal as soon as possible! In the meantime, we ask for your understanding as you adjust your plans to fit with the new calendar.
How does this effect MLK Service Day? Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we are unable to safely hold a service day on the scale that we usually do, so this year we have had to cancel the MLK Service Day on January 18.
More information about what the winter semester will look like is still to come. We will share details as soon as we are able to do so. Again, thank you for the part you are playing in keeping our campus family safe and healthy, allowing us all to continue in-person campus life! God has certainly blessed everyone’s efforts, and we praise Him for that. We also invite you to continue joining us in prayer for His ongoing protection.
Robert Young, PhD
Senior Vice President
Southern Adventist University