Jewell COVID-19 Response: Liveblog

Screenshot of Jewell website update on COVID-19.

Keep updated about William Jewell College’s responses to COVID-19.

The liveblog will be continually updated as new information is announced.

December 3

The campus is returning to level B after reductions in the number of COVID-19 cases on campus. There are currently two students in quarantine and one in isolation in Browning.

“Based on the limited number of isolated cases that exist on campus, and our ability to contain spread of the virus through testing, isolation, contact tracing, and quarantine measures, we are returning to threat level B,” the email announcement stated.

November 9

The campus remains at threat level C but has decided to resume in-person academic and athletic activities effective tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 10. 

Joe Garcia, vice president for finance and operations, noted that the increase in COVID-19 cases on campus seemed to largely originate from off-campus interactions. Furthermore, Garcia noted that it seemed that the virus then spread as a result of high-contact athletic activity and shared residential spaces.  

Instructors may continue to administer virtual classes at their discretion or may resume in-person instruction. Furthermore, athletic activities will be conducted with the use of masks and social distancing unless otherwise advised by Tom Eisenhauer, director of athletics.  

In addition, campus-wide COVID-19 testing, originally scheduled for the week before Thanksgiving break on Nov. 17 and 18, has been moved up to tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday, Nov. 10 and 11. 

Students, staff and faculty can register for testing at this link.

November 6

William Jewell College moves to Operation Safe Campus threat level C after both a spike in symptomatic student testing and a small cluster of positive COVID-19 cases were reported from the football team and within the Kappa Alpha (KA) fraternity house. The football team and KA residents have been put on quarantine status.

Faculty and staff have been advised to either hold classes and extracurricular events virtually or to cancel them entirely for the dates of Friday, Nov. 6, and Monday, Nov. 9.

All athletic events are on hold until Monday.

The Lighting of the Quad event scheduled for this evening has been postponed. Saturday’s Jewell Journey Day has been canceled.

In residence halls, all visitation is suspended and non-essential common areas will be closed. In-person residence events have been postponed or canceled. 

In an email reporting the change in threat level to the campus community, Joe Garcia, vice president of finance and operations, emphasized that the College’s decision to move the threat level to level C was made out of “an abundance of caution” in order to allow the College “to take a pause to assess the situation and determine next steps.”

The threat level will be re-evaluated by noon Nov. 9.

August 25

Jewell moves into Operation Safe Campus threat level B after the individual who tested positive decided to isolate off campus.

August 24

Jewell moves to Operation Safe Campus threat level C after an employee tests positive for COVID-19. This individual case was made public in order to announce the campus would be moving into level C. Going forward, each individual case will not necessarily be announced. 

Dr. Anne Dema, provost of the College, welcomes students as they return to campus and shares resources for digital appointment making. Departments using digital tools to reserve appointment include: the academic achievement center, athletic department, the business office, central services, biology department, education department, nursing department, library services, the office of accessibility services, the office of admission, the office of career development and internships, the office of financial aid and scholarship services, the office of global studies and journey grants, human resources, information technology, institutional advancement, student life, residence life, the office of teaching and learning services, Pryor leadership studies, the registrar’s office and the Tucker leadership lab.

August 13

Jewell announces final key guidance on Operation Safe Campus. Students and employees will have the opportunity to get a free COVID-19 saliva-based test. Testing will be available to students arriving at the Mabee Center at designated move-in time on August 22, 24 and 25. All students are strongly encouraged to complete the test, and all student athletes are required to take the test to be eligible for practice and training. Employees can get tested on August 24 or 25. Students are asked to limit off-campus travel and practice proven safety measures until they receive results. 

Jewell will be partnering with Rapid Trace to conduct expert contact tracing. “If students or employees receive a call from Rapid Trace, please respond quickly and provide clear and accurate information; the success of Operation Safe Campus depends upon quick and effective contact tracing.”

Students and employees will be expected to participate in mandatory COVID-19 training from MRI Global. The sessions are via Zoom and will be recorded for those unable to attend. Employees and contractors will have training Aug. 13 at 1 pm. Custodial staff will have training Aug. 14 at 1 pm. Students will have training Aug. 18 at 8 pm.

July 27

The Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) announces changes to the 2020-21 sports season. Football, soccer and volleyball will take place in the spring 2021 semester. Cross country, golf, swimming & diving, tennis and track & field are permitted to compete at the discretion of each institution. Jewell intends to compete in these sports in the fall and is evaluating opportunities with outside competition. All contests in the non-championship segment for the sports of baseball, softball and wrestling will be canceled during the fall semester. A decision regarding the status of the start of basketball competition on Nov. 13, 2020 will be made by Oct. 1, 2020. More information can be found on the Jewell athletics website.

July 7

Harriman-Jewell Series announces that subscription performances for the 2020-2021 – or the 56th – season will be put on hold. Most performances scheduled for the 56th season will be moved to the 57th season in 2021-2022. Events planned for the 57th season can be found here. The Harriman-Jewell Series plans to present single performances in 2020-2021 as public health and safety guidelines allow.

June 26

Jewell sends an update on Operation Safe Campus. The campus is at threat level B and is expected to remain at the level into the fall. The threat level can be identified at or on the flag on the quad. Other announcements from the email include:

  • Employees are encouraged to work remotely through the month of July – as permitted by a supervisor. All employees should return to on-campus work by Aug. 1. Employees should work with their supervisors if the need to work remotely persists.
  • Access to previously closed facilities – including outdoor athletic facilities, the Mabee Center weight room, athletic training room, and pool (for approved groups only) and the Tucker Leadership course – will open July 7. 
  • All employees and students will be expected to participate in preventive measures to reduce the risk of exposure or transmission of COVID-19. The preventive measures include self-monitoring and reporting, preventive health screening, testing, masks and facial coverings, social distancing, hygiene and a campus housing policy for students. More information about each of the measures can be found in the email.
  • Classrooms will be configured for social distancing and safety. Classes will be offered through one of five modes of delivery. Students who need to quarantine will have virtual access to most classes. More information on classes will be provided by August 1.
  • Dining halls have been configured to account for social distancing and reduced capacity.
  • The Wellness Center will be closed for the entirety of the 2020-2021 school year. Fitness equipment will be relocated to other places on campus. 
  • Finals during the fall 2020 semester will be taken virtually. 
  • Visitors should adhere to all facial covering and social distancing policies. Those who are symptomatic or have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 should not visit campus. Departments should retain invite and RSVP lists and provide college expectations to all visitors prior to visitors arriving. Additional guidance for visitors will be forthcoming.

June 2

Jewell announces changes to the fall semester. Fall Break will be moved to November 23 and 24 – giving a full week-long Thanksgiving break. There will be no in-person classes after Thanksgiving break – so students and faculty can return home for the holiday without interruption due to quarantining upon return. Residence halls will remain open during the week of Thanksgiving and will remain open for the final weeks of semester. The rest of campus will also remain open through the end of semester. Advising days have been moved to October 29 and November 4. These decisions were made to increase continuance of time on campus in order to ensure a safe, effective and on-campus semester.

May 29

An email to faculty and staff updated recommendations regarding return to work – due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19. Employees should now wait to return to work until Tuesday, June 2. “After the proper cleaning and sanitation has occurred, a wait period of at least 24 hours is recommended.  However, in an extra measure of precaution we are extending that period to 48 hours,” the email stated.

May 28

An email to faculty and staff announces that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19 and the campus has been moved to Threat Level C (more information on threat levels). The individual was last on campus May 22 and only one other employee may have come into contact with the individual. This person is being tested and told to self-isolate for 14 days. Everyone working in the buildings in which the individual worked has been advised to get tested for COVID-19. As a precautionary measure, all employees were advised to stay home May 29 for all buildings to be deep-cleaned. MRIGlobal is completing assessment of the situation. Employees are still encouraged to work from home during the month of June.

May 19

Jewell presents Operation Safe Campus – its plan for returning to campus – and announces the College will remain closed through June 1. On June 1, employees will be able to return to campus but will be allowed to work remotely. Currently, campus is at level B (moderate) on the College’s five level risk evaluation. The scale can be found here. The campus will likely remain at level B through August and into the fall. 

The email announcing the plan stated, “The Operational Planning Team is establishing the policies and a framework to reopen and sustain the campus, and is approaching this work consistent with our identity as The Critical Thinking College®. The strategic framework for Operation Safe Campus is built on the concept of defined operational levels, 0 to D, which correlate with varied responses to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. “

May 12

Jewell announces students may receive relief funds from the CARES Act for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). The College was allocated $707,592; $353,796 of which is to go directly to students. Students are eligible for the relief if they are eligible for Title IV federal financial aid. Students should submit and check the status of their 2019-2020 FAFSAs to confirm eligibility. Students should also update their preferred mailing addresses. Students who have experienced financial hardship resulting from a lost job due to COVID-19 can apply for more funding by submitting an application to the College for a Professional Judgment (PJ). PJ are conducted on a case-by-case basis. Students must submit a 2020-2021 FAFSA in order to be eligible to apply for a PJ. Contact the Office of Financial Aid with questions. 

April 29

Jewell announces incoming student events – including Cardinal Day and Summer Fling – will occur in a virtual format. Admissions and Student Life will be reaching out to those with roles in these events regarding alternate plans. 

April 27

Jewell announces its intention to hold Baccalaureate and Commencement for graduating seniors the weekend of September 11 and 12. The intended plan is subject to Clay County Health Center guidelines and crowd-size restrictions that may be in place at the time. More details will be made available as plans develop. Information about program-specific celebrations will be shared with students by department chairs. “As is our practice each year after final grades are submitted (the week of May 18), the Registrar’s Office will mail diplomas to the home address seniors have on file and the Dean’s List will be released,” stated the email to students, faculty and staff. 

April 23

Elizabeth Macleod Walls, president of the College, notifies students, faculty and staff that – with the support of Clay County Public Health, the City of Liberty, and the Board of Trustees –  Jewell intends to reopen for in-person classes and co-curricular activities in August. “We are committed to providing students with a safe living and learning experience on our campus for the fall semester, and are taking the following steps to ensure the health and safety of our Jewell community,” the email states. As part of this effort WJC will: 

  • Continue to partner with MRIGlobal to review the College’s safety practices and train students, faculty and staff on best protocols. MRIGlobal will also provide biological cleanup in the event of a case of COVID-19 on campus
  • Continue to partner with Liberty Hospital to provide quality healthcare to student
  • Continue to provide students with free access to the student health center and nurse practitioner, Paula Brown
  • Provide students with private residence hall rooms – upon request – at no extra cost
  • Make Clay County’s free COVID-19 testing available to students

Macleod Walls notifies students, faculty and staff that she has commissioned a team led by Daniel Holt, associate vice president for institution strategy, to develop three potential delivery models for the fall semester. The three potential models are: an in-person experience with modifications, an in-person/online hybrid and a fully virtual environment – in the case that another round of outbreaks occurs.

Macleod Walls announces that the Jewell campus will remain closed through May 15, though Clay County plans to terminate the stay-at-home order May 3. The College will reevaluate the situation at that time.

April 22

Clay County Public Health amends stay-at-home order to extend through May 3, rather than May 15. 

Jewell announces continuation of current facility operations through August 1. Outdoor facilities – such as Greene Stadium – will remain open. Indoor facilities – like the Wellness Center and Mabee weight room and athletic training room – will remain closed. 

The College confirms summer housing availability for students who need to be on campus for academic reasons and for those who have confirmed employment in the Kansas City area. 

Cardinal Athletics will not conduct in-person, on-campus training until August. Student athletes with questions are recommended to reach out to their respective coaches.

Jewell announces cancellation of hosting external groups – including weddings, residential and day camps – through August 1.

April 10

Elizabeth Macleod Walls, president of the College, announces that Jewell is a recipient of a payroll protection payment loan in her weekly message update. Jewell will receive $3.27 million to provide payroll protection for up to two months for all employees. Macleod Walls thanks Joe Garcia, vice president for finance and operations, and the business office for working to apply for and receive the loan.

April 9

Jewell faculty approves an update to the grading policy. According to the new policy, students can choose to take CTI courses and any electives with Pass/Fail grades. They can choose the Pass/Fail grade option until 5 p.m. May 1. Students were told to consult academic and program advisors before deciding whether to use Pass/Fail grades. Pass/Fail grades can be chosen with this Etrieve link. Students were sent a copy of the updated policy March 13. More questions about the option can be found in that Pass/Fail FAQ document.

April 3

Joe Garcia, vice president for finance and operations, notifies students that WJC is suspending its normal refund policy. Students will be refunded approximately $2,400 for eight weeks worth of room and board fees. Graduating seniors will be refunded via check, and continuing students will have the refunded money credited to their fall semester 2020 tuition and fees. Continuing students may request the refund in the form of a check. For students with an outstanding balance, the refund will go toward that balance – with the remainder being credited to fall semester tuition or in the form of a refund check. Jewell aims to distribute checks by April 17.

March 31

Students are notified that the College significantly increased the price threshold for registration. Now, students with an account balance up to $2,500 (rather than the previous balance limit of $250) can register for courses in the fall. Students with an account balance greater than $2,500 are encouraged to contact the financial aid department for assistance with registration.

March 27

Elizabeth MacLeod Walls, president of the College, announces commencement and baccalaureate ceremonies will not be held May 16, 2020. She assures students that some formal graduation for the class of 2020 will be held in person once the situation is safe enough to allow it. The ceremonies will be taped and available for distribution.

March 25

The financial aid department notifies students that those with work-study positions would continue to receive payments while the campus is closed. Students will be paid according to how much they work in a typical week. Work-study students are advised to get in contact with the business office to avoid any disruption in payment. Students with workship positions are not eligible for continued payment but can continue working remotely if possible. Clarifications about this financial aid sent March 27.

Students are notified that Student Health Center services are going online. Students can contact Jewell’s health center nurse practitioner Paula Brown to schedule telehealth appointments via phone, computer or tablet with camera capabilities.

March 23

Spring break officially ends and Jewell faculty resumes teaching classes online.

March 22 

An email containing information regarding who to contact at Jewell and for what reasons is sent to students, staff and faculty. The email includes information regarding academic resources, counseling services and student life. 

The guidelines of the Clay County stay-at-home order are emailed to all students, staff and faculty, and it is explained that, as a higher education institution, Jewell is considered an essential business. Essential employees are allowed to continue coming to the campus to perform essential functions.

March 19

Landon Jones, director of campus security, emails all students, staff and faculty with a set of guidelines for activities and work conducted on-campus during the pandemic.

March 18 

The career development office announces that all remaining events for the semester will be moved online. 

Fitness centers in Mathes and Shumaker Halls are closed until the end of the semester. 

Residential living on Jewell’s campus is suspended “immediately” and all students are asked to move off campus “as quickly as possible.” Students with an acute need to remain in the Jewell dorms are allowed to appeal, and their situations will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

Curry library services announces, via email, the adapted services offered while classes are held online.

March 17

MacLeod Walls announces to all students, faculty and staff that Jewell classes will be hosted online for the remainder of the semester, until May 15. It is stated that campus housing will remain available for students who are screened and who “choose to [return] between now and the end of the academic year.” The email declares it likely that large spring semester events, including Honors Convocation and Parents’ Weekend, will be cancelled.  

March 16

Residential students are notified about the screening process for remaining in dorms. College residences were scheduled to open March 22 at 2 p.m. 

Students who do not have access to WiFi at home are invited to complete a form to be sent a hotspot so they may successfully complete the semester remotely.

March 12

Students, staff and faculty are notified that Jewell would be moving to online classes until April 5. Co-curricular activities, including inter-collegiate athletics, are also suspended. An email announcement explains that dorms will remain open for students who successfully complete a housing screening form by March 18.

March 11

A letter written by Anne Dema, provost of the College, is read to all Jewell students in their classes explaining that a task force has been established and the College is monitoring the situation closely. Students are asked to monitor their emails closely over spring break, March 16-22. 

Jewell’s online coronavirus news center is made available for the public to view.

February 5

Landon Jones, director of campus security, briefs Jewell’s cabinet on potential responses to COVID-19, and forms a task force shortly thereafter.


Catherine Dema

Catherine Dema is the page editor for Features & Investigations on The Hilltop Monitor. She is a senior majoring in Oxbridge: History of Ideas and physics.

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