Sent on behalf of C. Donald Combs, PhD, FSSH, Vice President and Dean of the School of Health Professions

We are now seven months into what appears to be at least a 15-month long COVID-19 pandemic, extending until summer 2021. No one knows for sure how the pandemic will play out. We do know it is serious and requires our ongoing commitment to doing what we can to ensure the safety of our students, residents, faculty, staff and patients.

Our approach — requiring appropriate PPE, social distancing, hand washing and universal masking, and encouraging those who feel sick to stay home or go home and follow the protocols on the "What Should I Do?" portion of the COVID website — is working. Additionally, we have expanded sanitation and housekeeping activities and have installed plexiglass partitions in many of our classrooms to provide further protection.

The longer the pandemic continues, the more weary we all become with the burden of risk and with limitations on our personal behavior. Even though the Continuity of Operations Task Force recognizes this growing weariness, we are committed to implement policies based on what the science tells us is most effective. That involves following our protocols and adhering to the strict limitations on social gatherings.

Therefore, we are continuing, with very few exceptions (supporting a Red Cross blood drive, for example), to ban all social events and community engagement activities until the end of the year and, in all likelihood, until late spring or summer. It is unfortunate, but this ban extends to holiday gatherings that are traditionally held by our programs and departments. It is EVMS policy that no social events should be scheduled during the 2020 holiday season.

Thank you and take care.

It is important to note that of the 374 employees and students we have tested for COVID-19, only 19 were positive. Another 29 individuals tested in the community were found to be positive. To date, there have been two hospitalizations, one in March and one in June, and no deaths among those employees and students who tested positive. All but one (back in March) of those who tested positive reported either community contact with COVID-19 positive people or had no known COVID-19 exposures. That later point is why we continue to emphasize wearing PPE and practicing social distancing and hand washing not only when at EVMS, but also when in the community.

We appreciate the continuing commitment of EVMS students, residents, faculty and staff to following our protocols. It has and will continue to make a positive difference in the health and safety of the EVMS community and the larger communities where we live.