As we approach spring break, we wanted to provide an update on guidance and actions being taken by the university in response to daily changes in the worldwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We understand that this is a very stressful time and appreciate your patience and flexibility as we continue to work through the university’s responses and policy updates.
The administration and COVID-19 work group continue to follow and evaluate the continuing spread of the virus and its potential impact on our campus community. The Utah Department of Health is closely monitoring the number of cases of the disease in Utah.
The university’s COVID-19 webpage is being updated regularly, and we encourage you to check it frequently for important updates. University of Utah Health also has a helpful webpage with FAQs, practical tips about how to protect yourself from COVID-19, and more. Campus-wide alerts like this one will be reserved for alerting our community to significant operational announcements. If you have specific questions that are not answered by the information on the webpages, we encourage you to call the U’s COVID-19 telephone hotline at 801-213-2874.
Domestic travel guidance
The governors of many states (including Utah) have declared states of emergency due to COVID-19. New university travel to those states is discouraged. More broadly, we encourage you to avoid nonessential domestic travel and seek alternative mechanisms to participate in conferences and professional meetings. The university Athletics Department is working with the Pac-12 Conference to evaluate team and student-athlete travel plans.
If you travel, please take the following routine precautions (adapted from the CDC):
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol. Soap and water are the preferred cleaning method when hands are visibly dirty.
- It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
Required self-isolation and social distancing
The university is asking students, faculty, and staff returning from countries with a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention level three travel health notice (based on COVID-19) to self-isolate and to implement social distancing. Individuals who fall into this category should inform the University of Utah via the returning traveler self-reporting form (RTSRF). The university will not release personal information about returning students, faculty, and staff.
Faculty and staff returning from level three health areas who have questions about time, attendance, and payroll are encouraged to contact Human Resources.
If you have questions regarding self-isolation; feel sick with a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing; or have been in contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19, please call your health care provider or call an urgent care center and notify them of your symptoms and recent travel. Your health care provider will determine if you need to be seen in the office and if so, will provide special instructions to prevent exposing others.
Recommendations from the CDC for self-isolation and social distancing:
- Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day and monitor for fever. Also watch for cough or trouble breathing.
- Stay home and avoid contact with others. Do not go to work or school for a 14-day period. Discuss your work situation with your employer before returning to work.
- Do not take public transportation, taxis, or ride-shares during the time you are practicing social distancing.
- Avoid crowded places (such as shopping centers and movie theaters) and limit your activities in public.
- Keep your distance from others (about 6 feet or 2 meters).
Should any university community member be diagnosed with COVID-19 public health officials and the university will respond immediately to identify others who may be at risk and make appropriate recommendations.
Best practices for maintaining a safe campus environment
We are asking the entire campus community to follow best practices to help reduce the risk of spreading any type of illness on campus.
- If you are a student, please stay home if you are sick. Please communicate directly with your instructors about your situation. If additional support is needed, please contact the Office of the Dean of Students (801-581-7066).
- If you are a faculty or staff member, please stay home if you are sick. Please communicate directly with your immediate supervisor about your situation. If additional support is needed, please contact Human Resources (801-581-2169).
- Building managers have been directed to pay particular attention to monitoring and regularly disinfecting shared surfaces.
- All administrators are being asked to begin planning to ensure the continuity of education and research, safe housing and meal programs, and how university support services would be modified in the case of a community-wide spread of the virus.
University of Utah Health has a helpful website with practical tips about how to protect yourself from COVID-19 the same way you protect yourself from other viruses.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Make sure you are cleaning between your fingers and under your nails.
- Avoid shaking hands, especially with those who appear to be ill.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible.
- Disinfect shared surfaces.
- Stay home when you are sick
Combating stigma associated with COVID-19 (adapted from the CDC website)
Stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate an infectious disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is infected or at risk for the disease. Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem. Please refer to the university’s website or the CDC website for additional guidance.
- Viruses cannot target people from specific populations, ethnicities, or racial backgrounds.
- People—including those of Asian descent—who have not recently been in an area of ongoing spread of COVID-19 or been in contact with a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 are not at greater risk of acquiring and spreading COVID-19 than other Americans.
- People who have returned from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19 more than 14 days ago and do not have symptoms are not infected with the virus and contact with them will not give you the virus.
- Share the need for social support for people who have returned from affected countries or are worried about friends or relatives in the affected region.
Thank you for your continued diligence as we work to keep our campus community informed about this ever-changing situation.
Ruth Watkins, President
Dan Reed, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Michael Good, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences