In last month’s President’s Memo, I briefly discussed the coronavirus outbreak in China and the potential impact it might have on NASBA. Now, just one month later, “potential” is no longer even remotely applicable and the virus, COVID-19, is significantly impacting most of what we do. NASBA Chair Laurie J. Tish and I have discussed the difficulty in assessing how to work through this challenge. As we become more educated about the virus, and as the number of cases ramp up, being exposed and infected by COVID-19 could be less threatening than originally thought, but certainly has to be taken seriously — and that is what we are doing.

During the first week in March we implemented a policy that prohibits all non-essential staff travel and meetings until June 1 and possibly beyond. After a thorough review of the increase in numbers of COVID-19 cases in Pinellas County, Florida, we cancelled the Executive Directors and Legal Counsel Conferences and have frozen all other plans for meetings until we have a better determination of risk.

We have also implemented new staff directives to take precautions against spreading any communicable disease in NASBA’s offices. We are similarly restricting visits to our offices for those who may have traveled to high threat areas or who are symptomatic. The policy contains the following:

  • All non-essential travel must be cancelled.
  • All face-to-face events such as committee and task force meetings must be cancelled, rescheduled after June 1, or handled virtually. If any exception is granted, we request that staff attendance be scaled back to essential support only, if not in a NASBA office.
  • Travel to third party meetings and conferences must also be cancelled or shifted to virtual meetings, if that option is available, unless deemed essential.
  • Do not book new travel for trips post June 1 until otherwise informed or approved in advance by the President/CEO or his designee, to limit risk of cancellation fees that could arise if the situation remains the same or worsens in coming weeks.
  • In order to protect our own staff, we want to reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus from anyone visiting any of our offices. If NASBA staff members have any business visitors planning to come to any of NASBA’s offices we ask that they be sent notice in advance that outlines our position during this public health situation. This requirement is in place until further notice. This same policy applies to anyone attending any NASBA-sponsored meeting or conference.

We are constantly monitoring the effects on NASBA, including financial impact. Thus far we have not seen any significant change in behavior of domestic U.S. Examination candidates, but international candidates are being impacted by travel restrictions. This will result in decreasing numbers of candidates and will impact the Guam testing center particularly because of the number of Chinese, Japanese and South Korean candidates testing there.

NASBA is well prepared for this, or any, anomaly and we will be able to weather this storm. Our primary concern is the wellbeing of you, State Board members and staff, and other stakeholders and, of course, our staff.

Speaking of challenges, as I am sure your have heard on the news, downtown Nashville took a direct hit from a devastating tornado. Ironically, NASBA staff leaders met most of that day working through potential scenarios resulting from COVID-19 only to be awakened in the middle of the night by the tornados that struck the area. We were very lucky that the tornado’s path was a few blocks from our building and we sustained no damage. More importantly, we were able to quickly ascertain that no NASBA employees were injured or killed. However, we did have staff who suffered property damage, with one being left homeless, and others who had family members injured and also sustaining property loss.

I would like to thank the hundreds of State Board members and staff, and friends who communicated their concerns and offered their support. I personally heard from my counterparts from all around the globe. It provides a perspective when you think that more people died in middle Tennessee in a matter of minutes than died from coronavirus in the entire U.S. as of the end of that day.

I apologize if this Memo is somewhat of a downer. In my job, reacting to challenges and impact comes with the territory. It is made much easier by being surrounded by a talented and dedicated staff and the great volunteers who govern NASBA.

Be safe my friends. NASBA will be continually communicating updates and resultant changes that impact you, the State Boards.

Semper ad meliora (Always toward better things).

— Ken L. Bishop
President & CEO

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