Provost: Increased Understanding, COVID-19, Feb. 5
February 5, 2020
Dear Andrews Community,
I know many of you have read last week’s letters from VP Frances Faehner and me regarding our University’s understanding of and response to the growing impact of 2019-nCoV (simply known as “Coronavirus”).
As I write this letter, there are nearly 25,000 confirmed cases globally. Nearly all of those confirmed cases and all but two of the 490 deaths so far have occurred in Wuhan in the Hubei province of China. This pneumonia-like virus was first formally identified in Wuhan on Dec. 31, 2019.
The virus has now spread to 20 other countries around the world, including the United States. In those countries, there are 170 confirmed cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that there are now 11 cases in the United States, two of those cases representing the first confirmed human-to-human transmission of the virus in this country.
As we respond to the realities and spread of this Coronavirus, Andrews University will work to assure that we, as a campus community, take the right personal steps and University-wide precautions to keep all of us healthy as individuals and as a community. This is especially important during the annual cold and flu season, which has led to between 10,000 and 25,000 deaths this year in the U.S.
We’re also working to ensure that resources are available to our University community to help prevent the spread of illness. This prevention includes expanding our on-campus hand sanitizer stations, which are part of the commonsense advice offered during every cold and flu season.
The most effective steps to help prevent the spread of disease are to regularly wash our hands thoroughly with soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, avoid touching hard surfaces and avoid touching our faces.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also created a webpage that offers additional advice and posters that communicate these and other basic protection measures each of us should take. We will share some of the posters from WHO in on-campus public places and on-campus flatscreen monitors, with additional information on local healthcare contacts.
As I have talked with colleagues and healthcare professionals about the realities of this new and yet to be fully understood disease, I’m reminded that fear can often accompany that uncertainty.
In that regard, I invite you to review the specific CDC guidelines that inform our response and the response of the Berrien County Health Department, toward those who have traveled recently to mainland China. In particular, if those travelers to mainland China have not been in Wuhan or the Hubei province in mainland China in the last 14 days, self-monitoring for any symptoms of fever or deep coughing and social-distancing (remaining out of public places where close contact with others may occur) are encouraged. If these travelers begin to experience symptoms, they are encouraged to contact the Berrien County Health Department at 269-926-7121.
Additionally, the CDC's current understanding of how the Coronavirus spreads ought to inform our collective response toward risks connected with Coronavirus:
Most often, this Coronavirus spreads from person-to-person and can happen among close contacts (about six feet). Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It’s currently unclear if a person can get 2019-nCoV by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.
As we respond to this global health crisis, it’s important for us as an Andrews community to understand and communicate the realities of this new disease. Our response should be measured and not be prone to panic. Let us seek to understand and pursue the specific scientific, proactive and personal actions that are known to prevent the spread of disease.
We will continue to monitor and share relevant updates, as well as comply with the latest health organization and government guidelines. For example, there will be no University-sponsored travel to China until further notice.
If you’d like to know more about the 2019-nCoV/Coronavirus, I encourage you to also watch this video from the World Health Organization or read this overview from the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. The CDC also has an excellent Situation Summary on the 2019-nCoV virus at this link.
Thank you for your support, prayers and questions. We will continue to seek guidance and understanding to inform our necessary precautions. We will adhere to the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines as they emerge.