Coronavirus Communication 3/1/2020
As we continue to monitor the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, a small subset of our Emergency Operations Group met yesterday with a representative from the Kent County Health Department. While there are no confirmed cases of the virus in Maryland, five Marylanders have met the criteria for COVID-19 testing; two tested negative and three tests are pending. Washington College is taking every precaution to protect students traveling abroad and to prevent exposures to acute respiratory illnesses on our campus, including non-COVID-19.
The Maryland Department of Health is providing updates as the situation develops, and has offered information about how to protect yourself and your family.
Based on the latest information about coronavirus, Washington College has cancelled study abroad plans for three students who were due to leave soon for Japan or South Korea. We have also strongly recommended that our four students currently studying in Milan promptly return to the United States. These students are working with their faculty advisers to develop an academic plan that will permit them to complete their graduation requirements on time.
The College has also cancelled student participation in the Model United Nations program in Tokyo, and has issued a travel warning to students, faculty, and staff who may have made plans to travel abroad over spring break.
Based on current information, the CDC considers this new virus a public health concern. However, the immediate health risk to the general US public is considered low at this time. The CDC and the World Health Organization are closely monitoring the situation and providing ongoing guidance. Here is what we are doing in response.
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Here are everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
The Housekeeping staff will pay special attention to cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces and common gathering spaces.
We are reviewing our pandemic plans and following the same protocols established when we prepared for H1N1. We continue to monitor and plan for any new developments. To that end, we have identified campus spaces that could be used in the event of a quarantine situation, and we are putting together packaged supplies of food and toiletries to have on hand if they are needed.
In the unlikely event of campus closure, Washington College has the resources in place through that will permit faculty to carry on instruction remotely. The Emergency Operations Group is recommending that all teaching faculty participate in a 90-minute workshop, Instructional Continuity Plan Essentials, that introduces them to the technology, tools, and support systems needed to remotely connect to their students in case of an unanticipated campus closure. Registration is available online.
Campus Health Services and the Emergency Operations Group
As a top priority, the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff drives all decision-making. Lisa Marx, Director of Health Services, is in frequent communication with health officials at the local, state, and federal levels and our policies are informed by the World Health Organization’s strategies for businesses and employers to plan for and respond to COVID-19. Our infectious disease outbreak response plan includes recommendations for social distancing strategies, flexible leave policies, and a communications plan. More information will become available as the situation calls for.