Dear Washington University community,
As we’ve shared with you in recent days and weeks, we are closely monitoring the global outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as the situation continues to develop. We’re committed to providing you with the latest university updates and information, and will continue to do so. At this time, I also want to make you aware that, given the way the virus has spread globally and within the U.S. in the last few days, we are ramping up our response and putting new policies in place to protect our university community.
As you likely are aware and as we informed you over the weekend, the first case of COVID-19 in the state of Missouri was identified Saturday, in St. Louis County. This person had recently traveled to Italy, where there is widespread ongoing community transmission of COVID-19. The person is not a Washington University student or a member of the Washington University community.
At this time there remains no known community transmission within the St. Louis area. However, it is very difficult to know how the virus will shift and where the next hotspots will be, globally and here in the U.S. That means we need to prepare for the likelihood that we will see more cases reported here, and do what we can to offset our risk and prevent further spread of COVID-19 in our region. To that end, and with your health and safety as our highest priority, we are putting a number of university policies in place to help guide our decision-making about travel, events, and visitors to our campuses.
The policies below may have important implications for you as a member of the university community, so I ask you to please read the information carefully.
We’ve designed these policies with input from our core COVID-19 response team, which includes leaders from across the university, including, importantly, infectious disease experts at the School of Medicine. Our hope is that by implementing these policies, we may be able to slow the spread of the virus. We also are assessing operational and logistical needs that may arise as the situation continues to develop. Based on the team’s collective guidance, we believe it is wise and necessary at this time to put some controls in place to limit the potential for members of our community to be exposed to COVID-19 themselves, and to, in turn, expose others in our community.
It’s important to keep in mind that while the virus can be serious, most people who contract COVID-19 will experience mild-to-moderate flu-like symptoms and fully recover. However, there are members of our population who are more vulnerable to a virus like this and are at greater risk of serious illness. We need to think about the big picture and make every effort to be part of the solution, for the sake of everyone in our community.
This response will require effort and, for some, significant inconvenience and some sacrifice in order to be successful. We feel it is that important, and ask everyone to join us in committing to this heightened institutional response. I encourage each of you to think about how you personally can contribute to reducing our risk, whether that means canceling or postponing events, scheduling online or virtual meetings or classes, or rescheduling visits from out-of-town colleagues or guests.
We’re a community that pulls together in challenging times, and I’m counting on everyone to be diligent, patient, and above all, compassionate and kind to one another as we each do our part to navigate this evolving situation.
Chancellor Andrew D. Martin
WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY INTERIM POLICIES ON TRAVEL, EVENTS AND VISITORS – EFFECTIVE MARCH 9, 2020
Effective today, the following restrictions are in place for all Washington University in St. Louis faculty, staff and students (including trainees). These policies will be in effect until April 30, 2020, at which time new guidance might be issued for university activities taking place after that date.
All university-sponsored international travel is suspended between now and April 30, 2020. This includes any travel connected to university activities or programs for all faculty, staff and students, whether that travel is funded by the university, an external grant or other source. We also strongly discourage personal travel to international destinations. Anyone who travels for personal reasons to locations with an elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure during this time period will be required to contact the university for screening and clearance in order to return to the university. Depending upon your travel destination, you may be required to complete a 14-day self-quarantine away from campus. (See CDC guidance on self-quarantine.) Prior to returning to the university, Danforth Campus students must call Habif Health and Wellness Center at 314-935-4129. Medical Campus students must call Student Health at 314-362-3523. All faculty and staff must contact Occupational Health at 314-362-3528 or firstname.lastname@example.org for screening and clearance.
All non-essential university-sponsored domestic travel beyond the St. Louis metropolitan area is suspended between now and April 30, 2020. This includes any non-essential travel connected to university activities or programs for all faculty, staff and students, whether that travel is funded by the university, an external grant or other source. Requests to engage in essential travel must be approved by the chancellor or the provost, a dean, executive vice chancellor, or vice chancellor. All approved essential travel must be registered through Emergency Management through this website.
Students, staff and faculty planning personal domestic travel should be mindful of the spread of COVID-19 and continually monitor the list of locations with an elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure which may include U.S. cities and states. Anyone who travels to locations with an elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure is required to contact the university for screening and clearance in order to return to the university. You will likely be required to complete a 14-day self-quarantine away from campus. Prior to returning to the university, Danforth Campus students must call Habif Health and Wellness Center at 314-935-4129. Medical Campus students must call Student Health at 314-362-3523. All faculty and staff must contact Occupational Health at 314-362-3528 or email@example.com for screening and clearance.
VISITORS FROM OUTSIDE OF THE UNIVERSITY
Whether or not they are exhibiting symptoms, visitors (including contractors and consultants) who have been in locations with an elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure within the past 14 days are not allowed to visit campus or attend university events. In addition, visitors who have had direct contact with a patient confirmed to have COVID-19 or with someone who is under care for suspected exposure to COVID-19 are not allowed to visit campus or attend university events within 14 days of such contact. If your unit is hosting visitors to campus, you must inform your guests of this policy prior to their visit. In addition to directly communicating this information via email or phone, you should also add this information to the home page of your department’s website. (See Admissions page as example).
STUDY ABROAD/INTERNATIONAL ACADEMIC STUDY PROGRAMS
The university will suspend study abroad and international academic study programs in regions with a CDC Warning Level 3 (Avoid Non-Essential Travel). The university will assist students with return travel if a program is suspended. Other students who wish to leave a study abroad or international academic study program may voluntarily do so, and should coordinate with their program advisor about completion of academic coursework. Students returning from study abroad or international academic study programs in these locations should not return to the Washington University campus for at least 14 days upon their return, and they are required to contact the university for screening and clearance before returning to the university. Danforth Campus students must call Habif Health and Wellness Center at 314-935-4129 and Medical Campus students must call Student Health at 314-362-3523.
At this time, the university is not imposing specific restrictions for university events held on campus. However, university leaders continue to monitor the situation, and this may change on short notice should conditions change.
Essential off-campus events planned between now and April 30, 2020 scheduled in any locations with an elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure must be canceled. Other off-campus events may continue at this time, keeping in mind that non-essential travel for university faculty, students and staff is not permitted.
The university strongly encourages students, faculty and staff to consider postponing, canceling or modifying all university events that will have more than 150 participants, aside from classroom instruction. Regardless of the size of the event, modification of events should be considered, including using technology to allow remote participation. Zoom video conferencing technology is available to all university community members and can be used to convert an event to an online platform. The size and location of the venue may also need to be modified to allow participants the ability to access hand-washing facilities, and the ability to maintain a reasonable distance from one another and avoid direct physical contact. There may be other event modifications recommended by Emergency Management based upon guidance from the CDC and our School of Medicine’s infectious disease experts, including but not limited to food and beverage service and cleaning and disinfection requirements. Questions regarding event modifications may be directed to Emergency Management. The university will also update the FAQs with pertinent information.
If a university department is hosting an event with guests outside of the university, you must provide the interim guest policy prior to their visit and add a notice to your communications, including a notice on the event website.
CLASSES AND ON-CAMPUS INSTRUCTION
Currently, there is no disruption of on-campus instruction, although faculty are preparing to offer their courses online if necessary. In preparation for the potential impact of COVID-19, deans are reviewing school contingency plans to address curriculum delivery for the remainder of the spring semester, should there be a suspension of on-campus instruction. These contingency plans will also address delivery of instruction to students who are unable to return to campus because of illness, quarantine or travel delays related to COVID-19.
TELECOMMUTING FOR EMPLOYEES
If there is reason to believe an employee has been exposed to COVID-19, the employee may not come to work. The university has determined that COVID-19 represents an extraordinary circumstance. Therefore, should departments determine that they need to allow telecommuting due to COVID-19, they may approve temporary telecommuting based on the circumstances and needs of the department. Managers should determine an appropriate temporary remote work arrangement to ensure that the employee does not come to the university. Employees should stay home if they are sick and communicate with their manager by phone or email to determine the appropriate remote work arrangement. When the emergency or extraordinary circumstances no longer exist, the employee is expected to return to their regular work arrangement. Learn about the university’s telecommuting policy on the HR website.