200,000 Deaths. Remember.

This week the United States crossed the terrible threshold of 200,000 deaths, over about seven months. It’s hard to let that sink in. It’s more than almost any of the wars the country has fought — and those lasted years. More suffering is contained in the number than I can wrap my head around. Grandparents and children, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers. And friends. So many deaths from a virus whose capricious destructiveness has caused so much pain.

But Covid-19 isn’t entirely capricious. We do understand how to inhibit the spread of the disease. We can maintain six feet of distance with one another during social interactions, and we can limit gatherings to small groups — preferably held outside. And we must wear masks whenever we are around others. These things matter.

At Wesleyan, we are very fortunate to have had just a handful of positive Covid test results since August, and thus far those who have tested positive have recovered or are on the path to recovery. Of course, we are pleased about this, but it is so crucial that we not take the positive trajectory on campus thus far as a reason to let our guard down. We must remain careful. We must remain vigilant.

We can still spend time with friends outside, we can dance, play sports, listen to music, or just have a meal together with friends. I find so much joy in seeing folks on campus making the most of our time here. But we must also remember, especially as the weather turns colder, to wash our hands, wear our masks, and maintain distance during our social interactions. And we must get ourselves tested twice a week, every week. By rapidly providing supportive isolation to those who do get infected, we will prevent widespread contagion.

I am very grateful to the staff, faculty and students for their cooperation over the last month as we find a new rhythm of living and working together.

Let us remember those we’ve lost, and comfort those who are still grieving those losses. And let’s continue to keep ourselves and our community safe.