March 10, 2020

Students, Faculty and Staff,

I wanted to update you regarding several items related to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, including (a) steps we are taking to mitigate the spread of this and other viruses,(b)  planning for contingencies such as closing the campus should a student, employee, or visitor test positive for COVID-19, and (c) how the outbreak may effect conferences and other travel.

Our primary concern is to maintain a safe and healthy environment for students, employees, and visitors. This is a rapidly changing situation and we will keep you informed as these plans change.

The vice presidents and I spent much of the morning on several issues related to COVID-19. As there are positive tests throughout the St. Louis area, it seems increasingly likely that we will see positive tests within our immediate area, or related to someone who has been on our campus. TO DATE, THIS HAS NOT OCCURRED. However, we have been monitoring the outbreak and are keeping current with established sources of information such as the Centers for Disease Control.

 

Hand Sanitation & Campus Cleaning

Hand sanitizing stations are located throughout the campus, and the facilities crew is working to increase the number of these stations as rapidly as possible. These are/will be located near building entrances and in high-traffic areas.

With several hundred students coming to campus for the music festival, we will located sanitizing stations in the areas closest to the activities and staging areas associated with the music festival.

In addition, frequent handwashing according to CDC guidelines will be highly effective in mitigating the spread of influenza and other viruses.

Facilities staff will increase the frequency and scope of cleaning surfaces such as door handles, desks, counters, and other areas. Individual departments may use supply budgets for wipes, cleaners, and other items to help stay on top of the cleaning regimen in the immediate vicinity.

 

Public Information

Posters and other publications regarding COVID-19 will be distributed throughout campus, as well as on social media. The websites listed below provide helpful and updated information.

 

Potential Campus Closure

Faculty and staff are asked to prepare for the possibility of short-term changes to operations, such as closing the campus for a short period of time, if the COVID-19 or influenza outbreak would warrant such action. Faculty and staff should also begin preparations in the event that the outbreak could cause the closure of campus for a longer period of time, such as through the end of the spring term. While this seems unlikely now, preparation for these contingencies will enable us to better serve students should circumstances warrant the closure of the campus. Any decision to close will be made in order to ensure the safest and healthiest environment for our students and employees. Such a decision would have an impact on students’ ability to complete their work as planned, so it is important to keep students in the center of this specific discussion.

 

Travel

Several national and regional conferences have been cancelled in the past several days, and more are likely to follow. At this point, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is planning to hold its annual meeting as scheduled. I mention that specifically because several faculty and staff are scheduled to attend. Currently, air travel is still permitted for essential business or professional development. However, these events and/or the institution’s position regarding employee travel may change as the outbreak continues to spread. Should this change, we will notify the campus immediately.

 

Helpful Websites

The CDC website maintains up-to-date information related to the coronavirus (COVID-19):

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is also maintaining an updated website with information and resources:

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

The CDC recommends the following measures to promote everyday preventive health behaviors on campus:

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. If you don’t have a tissue, cough and sneeze into the inside of your elbow, not your hands.
  • Stay home when sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces following CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfection
  • Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

 

Should I Stay Home?

The flu season is relatively late this year, with an increasing number of cases being diagnosed within the last few weeks. In addition to the spread of the coronavirus, influenza remains a significant issue within our community. We have had several employees, students, or family members affected this month alone.

Employees should use good judgment, with an abundance of caution, when deciding whether to report for work. If you have been ill, you should not report for work until you have been fever-free without medication for at least 24 hours. If you do not feel well, or if others at home require your care, stay home until your health (or those with whom you live) returns to normal.

As mentioned above, we want to ensure a safe and healthy environment for those on campus. The situation is rapidly evolving and we will keep you informed as circumstances change.

Your cooperation regarding the coronavirus, influenza, and other infectious diseases is greatly appreciated.

 





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