Daily COVID-19 Update: April 16, 2020

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Thursday, April 16, 2020.

The latest concerning COVID-19 in Kentucky

As of yesterday evening, Kentucky is now at 2210 confirmed cases (still low compared to similar neighboring states on a per capita basis) and 115 deaths.  It is expected that there will be cases in the state into June.

An announcement regarding the Quad

Soon we will be starting a project intended to upgrade the ramp at the Library to achieve ADA compliance.  This will require the removal of a mature tree near the library entrance.  This tree is a silver maple that is not in the best of health anyway, but still, it never feels good to take out one of our quad trees.  I regret the necessity to move forward on this, but have given approval for the tree to be taken down.

An announcement from the Finance Office

The Finance Office has recently experienced an increase in fraudulent phishing attempts regarding employee purchasing cards. PNC will not contact cardholders for card or account information.  If you receive an email or phone call from anyone claiming to be a PNC professional do not provide them information and contact either Michael Hurt or Tammy Morgeson.  If you currently possess a college purchasing card please regularly check your Chrome River account to confirm the validity of your charges to protect the college against fraudulent activity.  Also visit “Purchasing Card Alerts” for instructions to sign up for improved alerts regarding your account.  Also, some employees have received phishing emails that appear to be from Berea College Finance Office staff or from me, as President, asking for certain information.  Do not respond to the email.  Please call someone in the Finance Office before taking any action.

An announcement from HR for Berea College Faculty and Staff

The Open Enrollment Window for Berea College benefit plans will open 4/27/2020 and will close 5/8/2020. All decisions made during this period will become effective at the start of the new plan year beginning 7/1/2020.

How can you prepare?

  1. Become familiar with the coverage you currently have by logging onto Bswift
  2. Review packets and personal health summaries that will be arriving by mail in soon
  3. Tune in to the next Staff Forum and General Faculty Assembly for a presentation from the Benefits Committee
  4. Keep an eye out for more communication from me leading up to and during the Open Enrollment Window
  5. Learn more about Open Enrollments with the following 3-minute video: Open Enrollment… What’s the Fuss?

An announcement from the Farm Store

The Farm Store is open and taking online orders until midnight on Sunday for next week. They have streamlined their process and require a pre-order.  Here is their form.

We are so proud of how quickly they have adapted to this new world we are all living in. They have fresh organic greens, garden plants and flowers, meat and eggs and all of it is raised right here on campus. There are still students here helping each aspect of the farm from Horticulture to Livestock to the retail team. They continue to come up with new ideas to fulfil their mission of bringing farm fresh food to our community. They are truly #BereaStrong.

Thanks so much to the farm staff and students for all they are doing to ensure our access to high-quality, (very) locally-produced food.  The Farm Store can also enhance the beauty of your home and garden.

Additions to the Hutchins Library appreciation of yesterday

I apologize, but we left two persons off the list of valued staff who are continuing to work so that we all have access to library materials.  They are:

  • Judy Gergen, Circulation Services Specialist; and
  • (student) Anne Cinnamond Building Manager Supervisor and Special Projects Associate


Starting this afternoon and continuing tomorrow, Berea College is holding its first ever virtual Board of Trustees meeting.  For that reason I am not anticipating that I will be sending updates tomorrow or over the weekend.

Announcement of publication

Dr. Jason G. Strange, Assistant Professor of General Studies and Chair of the Peace and Social Justice Studies Department, has recently published a book:  Shelter from the Machine: Homesteaders in the Age of Capitalism (University of Illinois Press)

Shelter from the Machine 
Homesteaders in the Age of Capitalism
Jason G. Strange
“Strange does a strong job of providing the historical context for homesteading and the reasons why it is so significant today. But even more important are his willingness to ground the book in the words and deeds of the homesteaders themselves and in his own history with homesteading, and to go beyond historical description to explore the role of class and capitalism in explaining the homesteaders’ differences.”–Stephen L. Fisher, coeditor of Transforming Places: Lessons from Appalachia

Perspective: the Ethics of Health Research

By the members of the Berea College Institutional Review Board (IRB): Rob Smith, Judith Weckman, Heather Dufour, Keith Long, Troy Messina, Dee Hill-Zuganelli, Broughton Anderson, Linda Strong-Leek, Sarah Broomfield

As members of the Berea College IRB we felt it was necessary to address a potentially dangerous trend presented in the news last week concerning the recent decision by the state of Michigan to begin clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine in Detroit, one of the African American population centers in Michigan[1].  This announcement comes on the heels of the Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ condemnation of two French scientists suggesting clinical trials proceed on rural African populations with little medical justification[2].  “Africa cannot and will not be a testing ground for any vaccine,” he said in a virtual news conference.

The role of the IRB on campus is to assess risk to human subjects in research such as medical studies and trials. Risk is an element of research, but there are explicit rules and guidelines that protect humans from excessive and/or unnecessary risk, especially testing and research conducted with vulnerable populations.  We see the decision and the comments to be indicators of a loosening of laws and practices established by the federal government and international organizations that demand ethical research on human subjects.  We also see this as a dangerous rollback of civil rights for marginalized populations, here and abroad.

The establishment of the IRB and international governing organization came after multiple generations of unethical testing and research on vulnerable populations. While the Tuskegee Syphilis Study is more familiar to Americans, numerous other studies carried out show the dangers of subjecting children, the chronically ill, and other marginalized persons to excessive risk, including lethality.  According to Margaret R. Moon, MD, MPH, these studies include the Willowbrook study of hepatitis transmission in a hospital for mentally impaired children, the Fernald State School trials using radioactive minerals in impaired children, and Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital case in which chronically ill patients were injected with cancer cells to monitor rejection[3].  Despite the high percentage of infection and death among African Americans, the choice to test a drug with no scientific base for curing COVID-19 on vulnerable populations violates federal guideline 45 CFS §46.111[4]

Our campus IRB questioned whether the choice of the Michigan courts to proceed with clinical trials might be unethical on several grounds.  Did the Court deem Detroit an appropriate site because COVID-19 infections were equitably spread across the population?  Were sick or high-risk residents freely volunteering themselves for clinical tests?  If so, what protocols were followed for securing informed consent?  Given how COVID-19 has revealed serious shortcomings in providing health care in the United States, is it ethical to test experimental treatments on racial minorities who may face systemic barriers to health care access and monitoring chronic health problems for whom the trial itself may be lethal?

The trends (hyperlinked and footnoted below) make a clear point about the importance of conducting research ethically.  The committee felt it was important to remind the Berea community why we take risk to human subjects seriously when we assess research.  While it is urgent to control the spread of the virus, we believe that using global pandemics as an excuse to subject racial minorities to enhanced risks of clinical trials is wrong.

[1] https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/03/31/michigan-requests-hydroxychloroquine-national-stockpile-covid-19/5094307002/

[2] https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/07/africa/french-doctors-africa-covid-19-intl/index.html

[3] https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/history-and-role-institutional-review-boards-useful-tension/2009-04

[4] https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=&SID=83cd09e1c0f5c6937cd9d7513160fc3f&pitd=20180719&n=pt45.1.46&r=PART&ty=HTML#se45.1.46_1111