As social distancing becomes more critical in mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), remote contact and virtual events have become the norm. From annual social gatherings like Shag on the Mag to philanthropic fundraisers like Wake ’N Shake (WNS), all in-person events, both on-and off-campus, with more than 50 expected attendees have been cancelled, postponed or virtualized.
Issued on March 13, the university’s decision regarding events adheres to the guidance provided by the COVID-19 Special Events Committee.
“Per the Centers for Disease Control, there is currently no vaccine for preventing COVID-19 and avoiding close contact is a key prevention measure,” said Associate Dean for Student Engagement Tim Wilkinson in an email to students. “Additionally, it is imperative that university and local medical and law enforcement resources be able to focus on the challenges stemming from COVID-19, as opposed to off-campus social events. Knowing the steps being taken by governmental agencies, educational institutions, and professional sports leagues, the Wake Forest University community must also play its part.”
Likewise, even if events have an expected attendance fewer than 50 people, the university has asked organizers to consider additional factors related to the spread of the coronavirus. Events that are expected to have a significant quantity of attendees over 60 years of age or in another high-risk category and/or have any participants travelling from places experiencing high rates of infection are to be held in close quarters, be hosted in private houses or require close interaction between participants should be cancelled, postponed or virtualized.
Finally, planners have also been asked to consider whether holding the event is critical to the university’s core mission in regard to COVID-19. If not, the event should be cancelled.
All event restrictions are intended to be effective through at least April 15, at which time more information will have been or will be communicated by the university. Until further guidance has been issued, organizations have been advised not to schedule events after April 15.
In the meantime, many organizations are attempting to adapt events to the new criteria set forth by the university. In fact, the student directors of WNS sent out an email on March 13 indicating their efforts to create a virtual event that will occur in early April.
“Unfortunately, this has impacted our ability to host a live and in-person Wake ’N Shake event,” said seniors Mary Britton Anderson, Felton Hatcher and Kylie Reed, the WNS Student Directors, in an email. “However, we are excited to move the event to a virtual platform and Wake ’N Shake is still working hard to raise funds, save lives, and provide a space for hope and community during a time of uncertainty and confusion.”
Fundraising will also continue, with the additional opportunity for participants to request that their registration fees be considered as formal gifts to the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
However, other organizations are still assessing potential ways to move forward. For instance, the Office of Sustainability’s plans for Earth Month, which was set to kickoff at the Campus Garden on March 22, are still uncertain. Student Union also plans to release a statement soon in regard to events initially planned for after spring break.
In addition to impacting favorite events of many students, the restrictions also apply to job-related gatherings, such as conferences and meetings, for faculty and staff members.
While current members of the university have had to deal with the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic and public health measures, potential and incoming students are also impacted by the resulting circumstances. All campus visits, student-led tours and admissions programming, such as Campus Day and “A Day in the Forest,” have been cancelled until the university issues further guidance.
“This was a difficult decision for us to make and we understand how disappointing it may be to you,” said the Office of Undergraduate Admissions in the community message. “But we hope you’ll take solace in knowing how thoughtfully and seriously we value your wellbeing and that of our campus community.”