Email from Provost Ka Yee C. Lee (Feb. 28, 2020)
From: Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost, and Kenneth S. Polonsky, Executive Vice President of the University for Biology and Medicine
Subject: Updates on Coronavirus and Planning
The University continues to closely monitor developments related to coronavirus (COVID-19), in coordination with UChicago Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). We are writing to update you on steps to protect the health and wellness of the University community and to ensure we are prepared for a range of contingencies.
It is important to emphasize that no one in our Hyde Park campus community has tested positive for COVID-19, and the current risk to people in the U.S. is low. However, CDC experts say they expect more cases in the U.S., and the University is continuing extensive preparations that have been underway since this became a global health concern in January.
Updated Travel Guidelines
This week, the CDC raised its coronavirus-related travel advisories for a number of countries, and issued its highest warning for South Korea – Level 3: Avoid Nonessential Travel. As a result, the University strongly discourages travel to South Korea, in addition to our existing guidelines discouraging travel to mainland China and Hong Kong. Advisories for other countries may continue to change, and we will include any updates on the University’s coronavirus updates website. The University advises travelers to check carefully on the status of COVID-19 alerts and precautions at all destinations, including layovers.
We are fortunate at the University of Chicago to have the expert advice of the University of Chicago Medicine, whose personnel have contributed to all aspects of planning on these issues. We are continuing to adjust and refine University-wide plans as the situation evolves, and aligning resources for a wide range of potential scenarios, including:
- University Community Abroad – We are closely following conditions in countries where our faculty, students and staff are currently living, including students in study abroad programs, and will be prepared if conditions change in those locations.
- Cases in the U.S. – If more cases appear in the U.S., we will be ready for additional public health measures whether or not our Chicago campus is affected.
- Campus Preparations – If one or more members of the campus community contract COVID-19, the University is ready to provide care and advice. We are also prepared to institute steps such as self-monitoring or quarantine if an individual’s travel history or contacts place them at heightened risk for the disease.
- Housing and Dining – The University is prepared to adjust housing or dining arrangements if necessary, in line with guidelines from the CDC and the Chicago Department of Public Health.
- Academic and Administrative Continuity – The University is preparing to maintain continuity of research, instruction, and administrative work under a range of scenarios.
The University already has taken a number of precautionary steps, including:
- Global Precautions – We have cancelled or relocated programs in countries with identified high risk for COVID-19. This includes the temporary closure of the University’s Yuen Campus in Hong Kong and the Center in Beijing.
- Travel – The University has strongly discouraged spring travel to impacted areas, and we are providing spring break housing and dining options for residential undergraduates who cannot return home.
- Public Health Precautions – In line with public health recommendations, cleaning staff at the University and medical center are disinfecting surfaces more frequently – a common precaution during influenza season, which also helps reduce risks from COVID-19.
- Information – The University has set up an up-to-date informational website on COVID-19 and an email resource for those with specific questions.
Staying Healthy and Prepared
We must continue to support each other during this time and take appropriate steps to promote physical and mental health and well-being. We encourage any student who is not feeling well or who has questions or concerns to contact the Student Health Service at 773-702-4156. Students who need immediate counseling care should call 773-702-9800. Faculty and staff may contact the Staff and Faculty Assistance Program, which provides support, counseling, and other resources for needs that may arise. The CDC has posted a list of precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 here.
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