By Tedd L. Mitchell, M.D., Chancellor, Texas Tech University System
Every generation of Americans has been called to sacrifice—and one of the great blessings of this country’s past is that, no matter the challenge, Americans have always risen to the task of protecting our nation.
Our present struggle against COVID-19 is no different. We each have a role to play. As chancellor of the Texas Tech University System, I want our entire Ram and Red Raider families to know my highest priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty, employees and surrounding communities.
C.S. Lewis said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” And so it has been with this virus.
We’ve taken quick action. Working with the presidents of our institutions, we canceled classes and transitioned to online education. We banned large-group gatherings on our campuses, and we will enforce Governor Greg Abbott’s mandate to prohibit social gatherings of more than 10 people.
Working with the Big 12 Conference and Lone Star Conference, we have canceled athletics events for the remainder of the spring season. And recently, Texas Tech University and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center have canceled the in-person May commencement ceremonies.
We know how hard our students have worked to earn their degree, and all of us are disappointed that we won’t be able to celebrate that achievement as we traditionally. We know how hard our student-athletes have prepared for competition, and all of us share in the disappointment of games not played and seasons cut short.
These were not easy decisions, but they were the right ones for the health and safety of our students and their families. As a medical doctor who practiced for more than 30 years, and as the former president of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, I want to underscore how important it is that Texans listen to the medical experts and government authorities. This is particularly important when it comes to the preventive recommendations such as social distancing policies.
We prepared for this pandemic in Lubbock, and now it has come. There have been several members of our local communities that have since tested positive for COVID-19.
Let me be clear: we haven’t seen anything like COVID-19 in our lifetimes. It’s tempting to blow it off, be complacent, or play fast and loose with the rules. As a doctor, a father, and a Texan, I implore you to take this situation seriously. Isolate yourselves, and when in public keep your distance from other people. Wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your face. Every one of us that takes these steps makes it possible for our state to overcome this pandemic.
Remember it’s not just about you. COVID-19 is especially malicious because it is transmitted so easily. We take protective measures in order to protect the lives of the elderly and the most vulnerable folks among us. Even the young and healthy are now filling up emergency wards, proving no one is invincible in the face of this virus. So, follow social distancing protocols because you never know who you might imperil if you do not.
By now, you’ve heard the phrase “flattening the curve.” This refers to the idea that by all of us self-isolating, we reduce the number of infected people. Flattening the curve is important. It ensures that our hospitals have enough ICU beds, ventilators, and other equipment to serve the sick. The steps we take today can help our front-line medical staff do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
Defeating this pandemic requires us all to take it seriously… and to make sacrifices. A friend of mine in Dallas put it well: either we choose selfishness, or sacrifice. In this, we’re no different than all previous generations of Americans who were called to make that same choice.
Many were asked to give their lives. Now it’s our turn. It’s not always easy to do the right thing, but it’s always right to do the right thing. So do something today that your future self, and others, will thank you for.
Tedd L. Mitchell, M.D., is the fifth chancellor of the Texas Tech University System and previously served as the longest-tenured president of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (2010-2019). He also previously served as the President and CEO of the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, an internationally-recognized center of excellence in preventive and sports medicine.