MSU President's Column for Traill County Tribune

October 10, 2020

Proud of and grateful for the Mayville State family and their efforts in the fight against COVID-19

I serve as a member of the North Dakota University System (NDUS) Smart Restart Task Force. Led by Dr. Joshua Wynne, Dean and Vice President for Health Affairs with the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences, the task force was set up to help guide best practices as recommended by Governor Doug Burgum’s ND Smart Restart plan, as well as to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

The task force began its work late in May to assist the NDUS campuses in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in preparation for students, faculty, and staff to return to their institutions with maximized safety and minimized chance of further spread of the virus.

The group collected the guidelines created for each NDUS campus, recognizing that location, size, and mission differences among the various campuses necessitates specific accommodations and differing local arrangements. The task force also collects data for individual policies, procedures, and approaches for use by the NDUS campuses, which encourages higher learning success in the current and eventual post-COVID-19 era. The group considers input from students, faculty, and staff, as well as the State Board of Higher Education. A faculty infectious disease expert, NDUS staff, and legal counsel all have a seat at the table too.

The task force is comprised of three working groups, one focusing on the large campuses, one focusing on medium-sized campuses, and one focusing on the smaller campuses. I represent Mayville State as a small campus. Other campuses involved in this group are Valley City State University, Dickinson State University, Lake Region State College, Williston State College, and Dakota College at Bottineau.

At the Oct. 1 meeting of the full task force, North Dakota Department of Health officials provided a presentation that included information on COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and reporting. I will highlight some of this information here.

Free testing events continue to be held statewide, many at NDUS institutions. To date, Mayville State has hosted or been involved with four testing events on campus or in the Mayville-Portland community. These events are coordinated by the Traill District Health Unit, along with the North Dakota Army National Guard, with assistance from Mayville State personnel.

I am happy to report that in the statewide data collected on Sept. 29 for presentation to the full task force, Mayville State had the highest percentage of students participating in testing among all NDUS institutions. In addition, the data shows we have the lowest positivity rate among individuals tested. On that date, Mayville State had two active cases among students. Only Dakota College at Bottineau has a lower number of positive cases at the time.

I commend our students, faculty, and staff for their diligent efforts to follow the protocols that are helping to keep people safe and healthy and to help stop or slow the spread of the virus. Our own local campus task force has worked very hard to plan and prepare for the safest possible environment in which we may work and study. Our custodial staff is going above and beyond in all ways, in spite of being short-handed. We are operating out of an abundance of caution with our ultimate goal, a commitment to in-person on-campus course delivery, at the forefront.

Our Staff Senate has initiated a program called “Comet Kudos,” which provides an avenue in which members of the Mayville State staff may be recognized for their good work. Recently, a faculty or staff member submitted a “kudo” for the student body. It said … Kudos to “Student Body - for quarantining, secluding yourselves, not gathering in large numbers, masking, etc. … for the safety of all. And in doing so, doing something no other generation of college students has ever been asked to do. Times like these tend to build leaders. I believe that to be true of the students on campus … RIGHT NOW! 

I couldn’t agree more! Our students have stepped up to the plate in a big way. College life during the global pandemic is not how they have come to know it or expect it to be. Students are making sacrifices to ensure their own safety, as well as the safety of others. They are missing out on experiences they have always hoped for, and they are doing it by maintaining positive can-do attitudes. If you see a Mayville State student when you’re around town, I encourage you to take the time to say “hello” and have a short conversation. These times of isolation are much different from the environment to which they are accustomed. A friendly “hello” will go a long way for everyone right now.

We have been extremely fortunate to have had minimal impact from positive COVID-19 cases. I say that with fingers crossed, knowing that we definitely are not immune and that things change in a hurry. For now, we are grateful, and no matter what the future holds, we will be proud of the Mayville State family for the great efforts they are making.