Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

These weekly CRT updates are often about timely matters – things that need to be done as soon as possible, isolation and quarantine numbers, testing procedures, vaccination availability, and more.

In today’s communication we would like to spend a little time looking further ahead to the fall 2021 semester. We’re often asked as a COVID Response Team what the fall might look like, and in a recent meeting we spent some time brainstorming about that question. 

Before we get to that though, a reminder for students that we are running a free, mass vaccination clinic on Wednesday, April 21 in the Huizenga Tennis and Track Center with 300-plus doses of Moderna available and appointments still waiting to be filled. Sign up here today.

We are already at 43 percent of Calvin students who have received at least one vaccination shot. If we fill these 300 slots, we will go over 50 percent, and the partial immunity that people get from even one dose of vaccine will help us finish the semester well and set us up for a good fall.

Help us get over 50 percent before the end of the semester. Either sign up today or if you’re already vaccinated, spread the word about this week’s opportunity!

Vaccines as the Way Forward

The vaccination clinic this week and looking ahead to the fall are linked because vaccinations will be critical to a more normal 2021-2022 school year.

We don’t obviously know what fall will bring in terms of vaccination levels (herd immunity) nor what the coronavirus variants might do between now and August 22 (the move-in date for some of our early-arriving student populations).

But, if we assume that vaccines continue to roll out at the present pace in our country, and if we assume that the current vaccines continue to mitigate against the current variants and other variants, then we can also imagine what might be possible for the Calvin community in the fall.

What we dream of as a CRT is a Calvin community that looks a lot like it did prior to the pandemic. We picture a Calvin community where students, staff, and faculty can attend in-person Chapel together again (and sing), attend athletic events and concerts together, eat with friends in the dining halls, and have Bible studies in residence hall common areas.

We imagine indoor meetings where masks are not required, classrooms with in-person learning where students are less than six feet apart, and semesters with normal Thanksgiving and spring breaks.

As a CRT, when we brainstormed and imagined a more-normal fall semester, what we also envisioned is a campus that embraces vaccinations as a way out of the current constraints in which we find ourselves, a campus that willingly seeks out vaccinations either here on campus this week or down the road in other locations.

Caring for Others

When we talked about the fall and COVID-19, we were all in agreement that as much as things could change, much of the change depends on people getting vaccinated, which will help the Calvin community develop herd immunity.

We’ve gotten a lot of questions about whether Calvin will require vaccination (as is happening at such places as Duke University, fellow MIAA member Saint Mary’s College, and many other institutions). As we contemplate the best way forward, we continue to think through a variety of factors. 

One factor is whether it makes sense to require something that everybody is already getting. For example, a recent mLive story noted that at Michigan State, a survey of MSU students found that more than 80 percent of undergraduate and graduate students planned to get the COVID-19 vaccine when available to them. 

The story said that students identified protecting themselves (48.1%) and caring for others (34.5%) as their main reason for wanting the vaccine and almost 30% said getting back to normal, including attending in-person classes and interacting with each other, was their top reason for getting vaccinated.

This idea of caring for others is an ethic that we have practiced well at Calvin this year. And it is becoming ever-more critical in COVID mitigation efforts as scientific evidence shows that asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission of the virus from people who are not coughing or sneezing is likely to account for a third to a half of all transmission worldwide.

If you can be asymptomatic, yet still give the virus to others, then getting vaccinated becomes a concrete, tangible way to protect those around you.

We do know that students who are planning to study off campus next semester will be required to get the COVID vaccine, a decision made recently by the university in conjunction with CRT and the office of off-campus programs. Program heads and students in off-campus programs will be working closely with the office and with health services to ensure that this process goes smoothly and efficiently for all involved.

An Upcoming Survey and More Vaccination Opportunities

We are surveying students, faculty, and staff this week to find out what percentage of our community is already vaccinated and how far we might have to go to get to herd immunity. You should receive a survey soon, and we encourage you to fill it out when you get it. Our hope is that we will see responses in the 80% range, just like the MSU numbers mentioned above. This would be a significant step in helping our community reach herd immunity.

That’s one reason why we have been so eager to provide vaccination clinics on our campus. This week, in addition to tomorrow’s on-campus clinic mentioned already above, there are also openings via Vaccinate West Michigan at DeVos Place, which offers the Pfizer vaccine, a two-dose series that has a booster at only 21 days and thus may accommodate more out-of-town students who are leaving before mid-May.

To sign up for the Pfizer vaccine this week, please use the Spectrum Health website (which has options for both Spectrum and non-Spectrum patients).

If you have questions about the vaccines, the getvaccineanswers website has lots of great info.

In the Homestretch

Finally, our last day of classes for the spring semester is a little more than two weeks from now on Thursday, May 6.

As we near the finish line of the 2020-21 school year and transition in May from weekly to as-needed CRT updates, we continue to be heartened in our work as a CRT by the efforts of the Calvin community this year. Not a lot of colleges and universities took on the challenge of in-person education during a pandemic, and it is fair to say Calvin’s efforts in this area drew some initial doubters.

But this campus rose to the challenge, and we are immensely grateful. We did not proceed without stumbles, but we persisted. And while we can’t predict the future, we believe our community will respond similarly in 2021-2022. Based on what we know about the students and employees at Calvin, we feel confident that collectively we will do what needs to be done to take another big step next year on the road to a more normal on-campus living and learning experience.

As always, between now and exams, keep masking up, keep social distancing, and keep using #CampusClear. And please, get vaccinated as soon as you can, if you are able. 

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay #CalvinStrong.

The COVID-Response Team
Kristen Alford
Jennifer Ambrose
Laura Champion
Phil de Haan
Todd Dornbos
Jim English
Todd Hubers (co-chair)
Brian Paige
Jane Prins
Sarah Visser (co-chair)
John Witte
Cindy Wolffis