Coronavirus Update

March 4, 2020

Words from Waller

Dear Bearcats,

The interconnectedness of the modern world has been made manifest in recent weeks by the emergence and rapid spread of COVID-19, caused by a new-to-humans coronavirus that first appeared in the Wuhan region of China in December and now has reached countries in every part of the world. Here in the United States, over a hundred cases have been identified, and ten people in Washington State have died, most associated with a nursing home in Kirkland.

Here at Willamette we have been tracking and preparing for the possible arrival of COVID-19 since January. Bishop Wellness Center Director Don Thomson has convened a working group that includes representatives of all major units and schools, and we are collaborating with partners such as Marion County Health and the State of Oregon to ensure that we are taking the right precautions to prioritize health and safety not just for those on campus but for our students studying around the world. Don will continue to keep all of us informed of any new developments and updates will be posted on Willamette's coronavirus web page.

For most young, healthy people it appears that the new virus causes only relatively mild symptoms, and sometimes none at all—and of course we are very fortunate to have terrific staff like those of Bishop Wellness, not to mention Salem Health across the street. But nearly every one of us has elderly or immunocompromised relatives or friends and many of us are far from home, worried about family members. I urge you to give special thought to our international students, including those from Tokyo International University of America. History shows the appalling results of mixing ignorance, fear, and disease. Please report any incidents of xenophobia or racism you encounter, on-campus or off, and keep in mind in your daily interactions that your colleagues, friends, teachers, students, and staff members may be dealing with new kinds of stress or distraction as we all live through a period of disruption and uncertainty.

It is easy, reading the news, to feel empathy for those in China, Korea, Italy, Iran, and Kirkland, WA whose lives have been deeply affected by COVID-19. The World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others still hope to slow or even halt its further spread, but it seems inevitable that the disease will cause broader disruption in Oregon, the US, and around the world in the weeks and months ahead.

As Bearcats, we are many things: challenging, idealistic, passionate. But each year at Matriculation, when Chaplain Karen Wood teaches us the motto in Latin, she also celebrates one enduring, and defining, Bearcat characteristic: kindness. Time and again, Willamette has proven itself a caring and compassionate community. Let us fully express that quality now and into the spring and beyond.

So, wash your hands, sneeze into a tissue, replace handshakes with fist bumps, but most importantly, be there for each other in the weeks and months ahead. Interconnectedness may be a challenge for public health officials, but it is also the most powerful tool we have to fight against any threat, including COVID-19.

Non nobis solum,


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