COVID-19 Report

Photo by: Abigail Lesley

To contact the COVID-19 Response Office, please email or call 843-661-4665.

FMU has implemented many changes and procedures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to the semester beginning online and students returning to campus on Sept. 8.

President Fred Carter established the new COVID-19 Response Office to provide members of the FMU community with information and resources related to FMU’s response to the pandemic. The office will also coordinate FMU’s contact tracing and health monitoring procedures.

According to Kevin Shupp, director of the COVID-19 Response Office and student life specialist, FMU has collaborated with public health specialists, doctors and numerous universities across the state and country to help inform its plans and decisions. FMU personnel also work closely with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Controls (SCDHEC) and the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE) to stay up to date on information related to COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 Response Office was created as a resource to help us through the pandemic,” Shupp said. “We hope our students, and our entire community, will make use of it.”

Someone will be in the office in the Smith University Center (UC) on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and they will be monitoring their phone number after hours as well. FMU has also instituted a new Student Health Center, which helps students with any health problems. It’s on the second floor of the UC, just down the hall from the COVID-19 Response Office, and it is open Monday – Friday. It’s staffed by a healthcare professional, either a nurse or a nurse practitioner, and is an FMU service that is free to students.

FMU is also asking students to complete a short daily assessment about how they are feeling on the Health Champion app. The results will be monitored by the COVID-19 Response Office.

FMU has just entered in a partnership with the MUSC Florence Medical Center to create a community COVID-19 testing center. MUSC Florence will provide testing on Monday mornings, beginning Sept. 14, from 8 a.m. to noon in the parking lot of the Griffin Athletic Center. This is part of the SCDHEC’s community testing program and it is free to the community, as well as to FMU students, faculty and staff. Regulations do require everyone being tested to present an insurance card, if they have one, and to fill out a brief form with contact information.

Since FMU is planning for classes to return to campus with safety measures in place on Sept. 8, Shupp said they will continue to prioritize safety and prepare for the future.

“We’re looking forward to the fall semester and the year ahead,” Shupp said. “Early signs are that the FMU community is engaged and aware of what needs to be done to keep everyone safe and is doing it. That said, this is all new ground and fresh information becomes available every day. We’re doing our best to stay informed and to be prepared for any eventuality.”

Shupp said the small actions we all can perform can have a huge impact on promoting the health of the FMU community. He said it is important to adhere to FMU’s mask-wearing requirements, to wash your hands, practice social distancing and follow the new protocols and procedures in the classroom and across campus.

“FMU is working diligently to provide a safe and enjoyable learning experience for all students,” Shupp said. “If we all work together, we can have a good fall.”

Shupp said FMU’s initiative and support have aided his assuming this new leadership role.

“FMU’s senior administrators have been very supportive as I transitioned into this role,” Shupp said. “I’m glad to play a small part in the university’s efforts to work through a challenging situation.”

According to Christopher Kennedy, vice president for student life and professor of history, current conditions necessitate social distancing and other measures to keep the campus community healthy and safe, changing the nature of many activities and experiences; however, he said the Student Life Office seeks to offer a robust student experience, with continued student life programming and co-curricular experiences to the fullest extent possible.

Kennedy said their mission to keep the FMU community healthy and safe also depends on remaining flexible and responding to the fluidity of the situation.

“We all thought back in March that this would be behind us in July and we could open normally for the fall,” Kennedy said. “Things, as we have seen, change almost on a daily basis and we need to be ready to face things when they come. We have the best administration in the state and in higher education. We have been deliberate, thoughtful and creative in crafting our responses to this pandemic since day one. We will continue to help guide our campus community through this, to keep everyone healthy.”

Kennedy said they have been working on innovative ways to responsibly host events during the pandemic. He said a drive-in movie experience will be coming soon to campus; a virtual FMU’s Got Talent will be aired on their student life YouTube channel along with other “shows,” podcasts and events. They are also working on a virtual student activities fair.

Kennedy said they will have to delay events with large gatherings, such as First Friday and the Arts International festivals. He said they will continually monitor conditions and hope to return to some traditions like the Grille After Dark series and FM A’Glow this semester.

“To do this responsibly will require significant adjustments to the ways we live, learn, play and interact; sharing a commitment and following all safe practice guidelines needed to protect one another,” Kennedy said.  “Be a patriot, be thoughtful and be safe.”