Friday, March 6, 2020
Dear Ursinus Community,
Spring break is nearly here, and whether you have the chance to leave campus or not, we hope the next few days provide the opportunity for rest, relaxation, and additional time with friends and family. With many of you planning to leave campus to travel, we want to take a moment to keep you apprised on what actions Ursinus has been taking given the extensive coverage of the spread of COVID-19.
Earlier this week, President Blomberg commissioned a task force to ensure the college is coordinating all aspects of planning and preparedness related to COVID-19. As dean of the college, I will continue to convene this group, which includes representatives from across campus in addition to our service providers Olympus (our custodial services partner) and Sodexo (our dining services partner). This task force has already met several times and has developed a basic structure for campus preparedness, understanding that we may need to be agile and quickly adapt to changing circumstances. We also felt it was important to share travel advice to those of you planning to depart campus this weekend.
At present, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends against traveling to China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea, and that those with health risks avoid travel to Japan. However, it is likely that other destinations-both international and domestic-will join this list as well. In cases such as this where coordination is paramount, public health officials have, in the past, required institutions like Ursinus to record the travel history of its community members. That information is important for the college as well, as Ursinus can provide resources and better support you should any unexpected emergency occur during your trip. To that end, we have created a short online survey for those of you with travel plans and, should you fall into either of these categories, we are respectfully requiring that you provide your travel information via survey.
- You have any plans for international travel:
- If this travel takes you to a country listed by the CDC as a “Level 3” country-currently the four countries above, but quite possibly a larger list by the end of break-you should plan on a quarantine period of three weeks before returning to campus.
- Your travel plans put you in plausible contact with individuals impacted by COVID-19:
- This may include travel to parts of the U.S. where reports have been confirmed, or instances in which you are in close interaction with someone who has come from a domestic or international region with a significant outbreak.
Thank you for sharing this important information. This survey will remain open for the remainder of the semester so that you may update your information whenever your situation, or public health assessments, changes. The information will be retained by the college’s office of institutional research and effectiveness and be treated with appropriate privacy.
At this point, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. Our task force continues to follow established guidelines and protocol from the CDC, which updates its website daily. We also remain in regular communication with all local and statewide health officials and are closely monitoring responses from other local colleges and universities. Furthermore, we continue to update our wellness center website with additional information about our heightened sanitation procedures. Beginning today, an informative “good hygiene” campaign encourages all faculty, staff and students to keep healthy and to follow good practices upon their return to campus after spring break.
As for the 38 members of our community who are currently studying abroad, we have been in communication with each of them and can report they remain in good health and have not been impacted by the spread of COVID-19. There have been interruptions to the academic experiences of several students, however, and we remain steadfast in working with them to minimize those disruptions.
And one final, and important, reminder: there may be members of the Ursinus family whose loved ones are being impacted by the spread of novel coronavirus. Please treat your peers and colleagues with respect, kindness and empathy. There are many contingencies that our taskforce is preparing for, but it is imperative we stay true to our values and support every member of our community through those uncertainties. If you’re feeling anxious about the coronavirus, I ask you take a few minutes to read an article from today’s Philadelphia Inquirer titled, “Coronavirus anxiety is all around. ‘Don’t oversaturate yourself,’ Philly experts advise.”
Thank you. If you are leaving campus this week, please enjoy your time with family and friends, stay safe and healthy, and we look forward to seeing you again on Monday, March 16!
Mark Schneider, dean of the college and chair of the task force