Gen. Glenn M. Walters, USMC (Ret.), president of The Citadel, addressed the campus community on Tuesday, March 10, 2020 regarding The Citadel’s ongoing response to the global outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19.
I want to talk to you about Coronavirus. I’m going to tell you all I know and what we’re doing and what we’ve done. And also some planning factors for you to consider, because in a few days you’re going where?
(“Spring break” the Corps responds)
So here are facts. As of this morning—we have no cases of coronavirus on this campus. There are, however, 755 cases in the United States. There are seven in South Carolina, including one at MUSC.
What actions have we taken as a school? You probably already know, but we’ve canceled or recalled all of our cadets and our study abroad at Rome. And this morning we made a decision to pull out all of our cadets that are studying in Greece because we have one cadet who roomed with someone over there from Townson University who contracted the virus—not our cadet, the Townson cadet. We’ll have to see what their medical plan is over there. All of our remaining study abroad students will be brought home starting today. And they’re in a a number of countries from ranging from Cyprus up to Scotland and Great Britain. They’re coming home.
I’m talking to you now because you’re going to go on Spring Break and we have 2,344 folks in the barracks who will be leaving here en masse after you turn in your rifles and clean your rooms Friday.
But I want you to think about some things and I want you to pay attention to this, it could be serious, it might not be, but I want you to be prepared. So if you go to our Citadel website there is a coronavirus 19 page up there. There you can access everything we’re doing, what we know. You can also access Johns Hopkins’ website which has a heat map and tell you where all the cases in this country are reported. Now, that 755 number that are reported so far, it’s important to know that about 20% of them have been confirmed through testing to have this virus. The rest of them are in observation and testing. So there’s a there’s a difference.
So the number might go up. It appears that the virus will stabilize and then go down as people recover. So there’s good news for young people like you because it doesn’t affect you that much. And I’m going to get to that when we talk about what you can do to plan. Also on our website you can find the link and the information to MUSC where you can do an online evaluation if you’re concerned.
So, now we come to spring break planning and how we’re going to return to force because our objective here is that, particularly for the class 2020, I really want to be in this building with all of you on a stage right over there and give your diplomas on 9 May. Is that a—is that a plan seniors?
All right. So we know where all you’re going. In the military we know because you all have a leave chit and on your leave chit it’ll tell you where you’re spending your leave. I’m going to give you some advice, not a direction, but I’m gonna give you some advice. But, I know the TAC officers are going to have you fill out our hurricane recall roster except this time instead of putting where you’re hiding out from a hurricane, you’re going to put where you’re going during Spring Break. That’ll just help us judge our risk and what our return the force process will look like. Okay?
For our CGC students and our veteran students, just call the CGC and please let them know where you’re going to crib up during Spring Break. And we’re doing the same thing for the faculty, by the way.
Take all the precautions that you already know how to do to protect your hygiene—wash your hands frequently, don’t hang around people who are coughing in your face, clean the surfaces where you think they need to be clean—you’ve got to heighten your protection of yourself. That’s all. It’s actually pretty simple. So I said, we’re going to find out where all you’re going. Here’s some things that I would consider because the objective here is to keep you academically viable in the track you’re on to graduate in the timeline that you have signed up for. I don’t care if you’re C-1, 2, 3 or 4. You all have a date in your, where you’re going to get your ring and you’re going to get your diploma. And we want to preserve that. There are some colleges in the country right now that have canceled a bunch of stuff. If you watch the news, a lot of people are canceling conferences, et cetera.
My objective is on 22nd of March. Everybody comes back to this campus healthy and ready to go and have a short sprint to graduation for the class of 2020. But we need, we need to all take responsibility for ourselves. There are three cruise ships right now that are quarantined. I guess the first one docked at Oakland and they’re moving all those people off that ship into quarantine. So if you decide to go on a cruise over your spring break, you might not get sick. But if someone on that ship gets sick, you’re all going to abide by the same process. And who can tell me how long the quarantine they say is right now? That’s right…two weeks, 14 days. How long is your spring break? A little bit less. So those are the risk calculations and what you need to think about before you go.
I would recommend that you look on the Johns Hopkins website. It has these heat maps across the globe, it can tell you, it tells you how many—by the size of the circle, how many cases have been identified there. There are some places in the United States that are more prevalent on the map than others. South Carolina’s pretty, pretty small—seven. But three days ago it was zero. Alright? Seattle’s one, San Francisco, LA, New York is coming up and there’s one place down in Florida. Use those resources to judge where are you going to do and what and what you’re willing to expose yourself to.
If you get sick, seek medical attention. Don’t gut it out ’cause you don’t know what you got. This virus is insidious in that you can be asymptomatic without it, or with the virus. Means you don’t feel bad so you press on. But if you’ve exposed yourself to it, now you become the carrier and you could give it to friends, family that might not be as robust in their immune system as you are—so you’ve got to accept that responsibility and make your plans accordingly. Does that make sense? I’m trying to give you some practical things.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the state. If you had asked me two weeks ago, I would’ve said we wouldn’t be where we are today. We have started a command center, a war room to track all this. We’ll put all of you in that system. When you fill out those forms, we can, we can see where our risks are and we will, we will have a return the force process. If you’re sick, don’t worry about the admin on that thing. Give us a call. The doc will give you a sick leave chit get yourself healthy before you come back because you all live in the barracks, right? Biggest Petri dish on earth is a barracks.
Couple of you get sick. The next thing, the whole division or the whole company stairwells not feeling well. Well, this one’s a little bit more unknown. I think we’re probably the experts say at least a year away from a vaccine. So we can’t get a flu shot for this thing. And because I don’t know what’s happening or what higher headquarters, if you will—the governor, the federal government—I don’t know what they’re going to restrictions are going to put on. They’ve already put restrictions on travel. You can go on the CDC website and see where that is. You know, Iran—you can’t go to Iran and can’t go to China and come back. You can’t—Italy, there’s another one. There are no travel restrictions in the United States right now. Look at the data.
If you’re going somewhere, figure out what you’re going to do if all of a sudden there’s a travel restriction in place. So use your best judgment if something happens that they say “close down all the schools,” that’s happened in a couple of countries already. Italy, for one. If they close down all the schools, our goal is still to graduate the senior class on time and the provost is making all the plans to ensure that happens with our online systems. What can you do? You can make sure you take your books, your school materials, and your computer home. Who’s from Summerville?
All right. If you’re from Summerville, one of your dad’s told me, “make sure you tell them also to bring their power cord home cause he always comes home without his power cord and he always has 4% on his battery.” So I have to diligently pass the message—power cord, books, materials, laptop, make sure—and I hope we don’t have to execute it. I hope to see all your smiling faces back here happy and healthy on the 22nd of March—but I want to make sure that if someone says, “okay, we’re going to call it all the schools to the 1st of April,” that’s the date that a lot of places are closing down until—not in this area yet. But who knows? So prepare and hope because if you prepare, it won’t happen. If you don’t prepare, then we’ll, we’ll be in a bad place to achieve our objectives.
So that’s what I know. That’s what we’re doing. And that’s what we’re going to plan on a way forward in the command center. If you have any questions, you can always call us. Communication is key. If you don’t feel well, go see someone. Communicate to us. This really is about taking care of each other so you don’t expose each other. If you do leave town, make a risk evaluation on where you’re going to go.
Okay, well I felt it imperative that I come and talk to you. So what I’ve attempted to do today is give you all the information I have. It’s all there. It’ll be different tomorrow. The numbers will be different. What people are doing with regard to this virus will be different, but this shouldn’t stop us from achieving our objectives here, which is go out, have a wonderful time on Spring Break. Relax, enjoy yourself. Seniors, not that long until May 9th. Freshmen, Recognition Day is ‘comin pretty darn quick. You know, juniors, you’re about ready to assume the mantle of leadership of the Corps. And sophomores, you’re going to be the bulwark of all the NCO ranks coming up. So enjoy yourself. Please be careful. Use judgment. Be informed. Look at these websites, look at them and understand them and make your decisions accordingly, and fill out the paperwork so we can track you. So we can make sure that we can return all of you, all of you, every single one of you back to campus, healthy, robust, and ready to get a 4.0 or at least a 3.7 so you can get Gold Stars. Okay? Thanks for the time.