President outlines campus coronavirus response plans

Coronavirus illustration

Editors update on Feb. 29 at 1:15 p.m. - The Oregon Health Authority has announced the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Oregon. For the latest information visit the Oregon Health Authority website and University Health Center’s website.

 

UO President Michael H. Schill sent the following message to the campus community Feb. 28:

Dear University of Oregon community,

In the month or so since we last communicated with campus about the university’s response to the coronavirus known as COVID-19, we have seen the outbreak continue to spread beyond China’s Hubei Province, where it was first detected. The situation is changing day-by-day, but as of this writing, COVID-19 has now been discovered in at least 50 countries, including the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified the potential public health threat as “high” and notes that the current global spread of the virus is likely to cause a pandemic. This may sound like a scary set of facts, but I want to assure you that the UO is doing everything we can to be prepared.

Thankfully, there are still no known cases in Oregon. The UO is continuing to take precautions to reduce the risk of the coronavirus and is in the process of stepping up planning and preparation for the potential that COVID-19 could affect our campus. Chief Resilience Officer and Associate Vice President for Safety and Risk Services André Le Duc has this week expanded the footprint of the UO’s Incident Management Team to increase availability of and support for operations, logistics, and preparedness efforts across campus. The UO IMT is widely recognized as being among the very best in the business, and we should all take comfort in the team’s experience and capabilities during times such as these. In addition, our Travel Advisory Group, normally focused on travel risks associated with study abroad programs, has expanded its membership and scope to include all international travel for the university. The group is coordinating with the IMT and is on call to quickly review and respond to travel concerns raised by evolving federal travel warnings.

This situation is generating many questions, concerns, and even ideas on how to reduce our risk on campus. A webform has been created to accept questions and feedback from the campus community. Inquiries will be triaged and responded to by members of the IMT. As a general rule, we will err on the side of caution as it relates to the health and safety of the UO community and are closely monitoring the latest information and guidance from the department of Lane County Public Health, the Oregon Health Authority, CDC, and World Health Organization.

Let me update you on some very recent steps the UO is taking related to the outbreak. In the last week, COVID-19 has aggressively spread in South Korea, prompting the CDC to issue a Level 3 travel warning for that country. As a result, the UO is canceling study abroad programs there, which impacts eight students, and suspending nonessential university travel to South Korea. If you have plans to travel to South Korea in the near term, please reach out to travelsafe@uoregon.edu for information about the waiver process and for further guidance. Our overriding priority as we make decisions will be the welfare of our students, faculty, and staff, and in accordance with CDC guidance, we will take appropriate steps to limit programs and travel in countries or regions that are heavily impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Times like these can be stressful and cause anxiety, which is why I encourage each of you to be good to one another and to remember the UO is a welcoming and diverse community that values inclusivity, compassion, and global engagement. COVID-19 is very quickly showing the world that it does not recognize race, nationality, nor ethnicity, so please avoid stereotyping or stigmatizing any particular individuals or groups of people because of this public health emergency. Now is the time to offer kindness, empathy, and support to friends, colleagues, and classmates who may be directly or indirectly affected by the outbreak.

The UO will continue posting updates about the institutional response to COVID-19 on the University Health Center’s website, including links to other sources of reliable and timely information. Additionally, we will also continue to share news and information with campus as it becomes available.

Thank you.

Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law