Greetings from Clemson!
This academic year has been one like no other. But as we begin 2021, I can say that I am incredibly proud to be a part of the Clemson Family. Our faculty, staff and students have come together during extremely challenging circumstances, demonstrating flexibility, care and compassion, and resilience.
In this issue of Clemson World, you’ll read stories of alumni who also have demonstrated incredible resilience. From Bear Walker, who has built a business that reflects his passion for creativity, to Ty and Tracy Woodard, who turned a dream into a reality, and four alumni — Cheri Dunmore Phyfer, Jeff Brown, Tanya Chisolm Sanders and Kevin Purcer — who have channeled their education and life experiences to create paths to success. Their stories can offer all of us a bit of inspiration as we travel our individual and collective paths.
As I have said many times since last March, every member of the Clemson Family has a critical role to play as we move forward in a world impacted by COVID-19. It remains extremely important for each of us to do our part to mitigate the spread of this virus as we continue to do the important work of educating this generation of Tigers and making Clemson the best it can be.
Family is important, particularly in challenging times. Thank you for being a part of the Clemson Family and for helping to make it stronger and more resilient.
As universities all over the country began scrambling to figure out what campus life would be like in a year of COVID-19, several Clemson professors got busy on parts of that puzzle that related to their own research.
One of those professors was David Freedman, chair of the University’s Department of Envionmental Engineering and Earth Sciences. In the spring of 2020, Freedman began testing coronavirus levels in wastewater on the University’s main campus and in the surrounding community to provide an early warning system that shows how fast the virus is spreading.
Freedman likened the tests to the “canary in the coal mine” that can help administrators make informed decisions about what they need to do to protect the public’s health even before COVID-19 case counts start to rise. In addition to campus, his testing covers the city of Clemson and the town of Pendleton, both home to many University students, faculty and staff.
Studies have shown that the virus starts showing up in wastewater as much as one to two weeks before clinical symptoms are reported.
Clemson City Council unanimously passed an ordinance on June 24 that mandated face coverings after Freedman found surprisingly high virus levels at the city’s Cochran Road wastewater treatment plant. The ordinance cited “elevated levels of virus in the community similar to levels in other cities in which an outbreak of the virus was about to occur or was well underway.”
Previous studies first done in Europe have shown that the virus starts showing up in wastewater as much as one to two weeks before clinical symptoms are reported, said Freedman.
“Even before people are coughing and getting a fever, they’ll start shedding the virus in their feces, and that will show up in the wastewater,” Freedman said. Once or twice a week, Freedman collects wastewater samples from one campus plant and two municipal plants and sends them to a lab in Tennessee. Results from the testing are posted on both the city and the University websites.
Spring 2020 graduates may not have gotten to cross the stage until October, but it was still a joyous occasion, socially distanced in the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville.