Daily COVID-19 Update: March 25, 2020

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Wednesday, March 25, 2020.  Lots of announcements today as we continue to adjust to new guidance coming in.

An announcement from the NCAA

First year women’s basketball play Aaliyah Hampton has been named the NATIONAL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR by D3Hoops.  This is an amazing honor for Aaliyah, who was also the Player of the Year in our athletic conference, the USA South.  Congratulations, Aaliyah!!! 

An announcement from Facilities Management

Beginning tomorrow, Thursday the 25th, our FM teams will begin a rotational schedule to divide up in such a way each week that a single COVID case would not lead to a worst-case situation where the entire team might need to be isolated and unable to provide their critical and essential support to campus.  The attached PDF gives guidance as to what the reduced weekly on-site teams can be focused on and what they cannot.

Facilities Management COVID Rotational Plan (PDF)

Also, FM will cease sorting collected recycling from campus during the interim period in order to avoid infection risk, as employees and student labor who do the sorting must often sort-out discarded food and other items that now pose a much higher than usual risk.

An announcement from Dining Services

In accordance with new CDC guidelines, Sodexo will be ending beverage machine service to students when they pick up their meals and will instead be offering take-out cups with rotating choices of water, lemonade, Kool-Aid or Tea at lunch and canned soda or water at dinner.  The canned soda option may not begin for a couple of days, as we await delivery from Pepsi.

An announcement from Public Safety

Effective Thursday, March 26th Public Safety will be switching to a new schedule. Officers will run two 12 hour shifts per week. This will create two teams to help continue efficiency with Public Safety while helping to minimize the spread of COVID-19 with fewer people on campus.

An announcement from Lincoln Hall

Effective immediately, the Student Accounts window in Lincoln Hall will be open one day a week – Fridays from 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM.  Email will continue to be monitored and phone calls will be forwarded during the time the Student Accounts window is closed.

News from the Madison County Emergency Management Group

Public Safety Director Provost Strong-Leek and I keep tabs on the county-wide planning for the COVID-19 emergency.  The different agencies of our local government are working well together in support of the public and the schools and hospitals.

Kentucky Colonels

In his daily press briefing yesterday Governor Beshear called special attention to and praised the work of the crews who are keeping our state capitol building clean and safe.  He has decided to make them all Kentucky Colonels!  Although I am not able commission Kentucky Colonels, we are just as grateful to the FM workers that are taking on the same task on our behalf, doing their utmost to ensure that we are as safe from contagion as possible here on campus.

On a day when we are all paying attention to the economic rescue package being prepared in Congress I have two perspectives to offer…

Perspectives on the COVID-19 Virus from the Economics and Business Department

By Nancy Sowers, Associate Professor of Finance

Covid-19, Retirement Accounts, and Black Swans:  One Economist’s Perspective

Stock markets really started to roil while our Berea community was on spring break.  From February 28 to March 20, the S&P 500 (a common index for measuring the market performance overall) decreased 21.98%.  Of course on an individual level the most important thing is our health and physical safety, but it is likely that some are looking at their retirement accounts right now with a great deal of anxiety.  The standard professional heuristic is to remember your long term plan, to sit tight and stay calm, that the average recovery period is about 24 months from a downturn.  That this advice falls flat is understandable as you watch one metric for “all you have worked for” drop precipitously.

The stock market acts as a leading indicator for the economy overall, which means that it typically tells us what will happen to the economy about six months ahead.  But what we are seeing now is a black swan event.  Nassim Nicholas Taleb teaches us that a black swan event is “highly improbable with massive consequences.”  Covid-19 appears to be the perfect example of this and, unfortunately, our financial models neither anticipate such events nor handle the effects well.  As market shock turns to economic shock, we are all watching the economic situation unfold for the people we love, the friends we care about, and the students we have helped to develop over four years.

The silver lining here is that the Federal Reserve is moving more quickly with more tools than ever before to assure liquidity in the markets today.  American ingenuity will rise as firms adjust their production to meet the shortfall of supplies so desperately needed in our hospitals.  Toyota is donating industrial grade respirators; Hanes will make masks instead of underwear; our distilleries will shift to making hand sanitizer instead of bourbon.  Volatility will play into the recovery too.  Keep in mind that the people that cashed out their retirements in the last market downturn missed 6 of the 10 best days of market recovery and the start to a strong decade of market growth (PlanPILOT).  The market on Tuesday (03/24/20) supports the idea that when the market does come back, the rebound is likely to catch us by surprise too.

An Information Systems & Data Analytics’ Business Perspective on the COVID-19 Virus

By Jacci Boggs, Assistant Professor of Information Systems Management & Data Analytics

Information Systems (IS), including computers, cell phones, video conferencing, streaming video, etc.  along with Data Analytics have become an increasingly important tool with the COVID-19 virus.  In many cases, some of us are interacting with IS more in the past few weeks than we ever have in the course of our careers.  We are now analyzing and digesting data in greater detail and with increased scrutiny than before the pandemic occurred.  The fact of the matter is, we need IS and Data Analytics more than ever to keep us informed, updated, and alive in these challenging times.

People are using IS to re-connect with family, friends, loved ones and to maintain critical business functions.  The use of video chat gives us the ability to feel connected to our loved ones.  Video conferencing allows us to interact with students and continue important meetings.  Streaming video allows churches to hold religious services.  Indeed Zoom (ZM) is one of the few companies doing well on the stock market this year, growing approximately 133% year to date.  The truth is, this pandemic would be much more difficult to handle without the use of IS.

Although staying connected through IS and the daily diet of Data Analysis may seem daunting to some, it highlights an important message for both faculty and students.  These tools have become a necessary part of our daily existence.  More than ever, we are relying on IS to teach our classes, create community, connect with loved ones, find important health information, hold business meetings and get daily updates on the relevant statistics of the virus.  Rather than allowing ourselves to get overwhelmed with these tools facilitating our everyday life, we must embrace them as our new normal.  Just remember to maintain a healthy balance to help overcome information overload.  Read data in small doses, take frequent breaks when utilizing electronic means of communication, take an hour per day away from your cell phone, information systems and data analysis.  Above all, stay safe, healthy, alert and informed.

Stay positive and keep up with all recommended protective measures.  We’ll get through this!

Lyle Roelofs, President