Dear Members of the Syracuse University Community: The start of every new semester brings with it excitement and anticipation. This year, those emotions are heightened and for some include anxiety associated with a return to campus life during the COVID…
Vital Health Message, Please Read: Coronavirus Preparedness, New Actions Underway
Dear Members of the Syracuse University Community:
I write to you with urgent updates related to coronavirus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance yesterday regarding the outbreak of the coronavirus known as COVID-19. Many people at our university—working with our partners at SUNY-ESF and SUNY Upstate, Le Moyne College and Crouse Hospital—have been carefully monitoring, preparing and taking steps in connection with the coronavirus outbreak.
We have been working with and obtaining counsel from health authorities, including our Onondaga County Health Department, New York State officials and the CDC. No case of coronavirus has yet been identified at Syracuse University or in Onondaga County, and there’s no one that I am aware of who is currently being tested or awaiting test results. Nevertheless, the CDC updated guidance suggests that each of us should be prepared for possible significant disruptions and that we may receive relatively little warning before we need to take additional steps.
Yesterday, on very short notice, we made the difficult decision to suspend our academic program in Florence, Italy, based on Italy’s very aggressive stance toward virus containment and travel restrictions. Students from Florence will not return to the Syracuse University campus until after spring break, which is consistent with the CDC’s 14-day incubation period guideline. It is a challenging situation right now in Italy. Dozens of staff here and in our Syracuse Florence Center, Syracuse Abroad main campus, Housing and Auxiliary Services and academic counselors in the schools and colleges are working around the clock to help our students get home safely as quickly as possible. If you or a loved one are affected, please don’t hesitate to contact Syracuse Abroad at 315.443.3471. I ask all other members of our community to permit these offices to do their job and call on them for help only in other emergencies.
Since the CDC issued its new guidance yesterday, we have taken many steps to ensure our preparedness is aligned with the current risk level:
- New Travel Restrictions: We have temporarily restricted students, faculty and staff from traveling to South Korea for University purposes, effective immediately. The University will actively monitor guidance from the State Department and the CDC with the intention of removing restrictions when it is safe to do so and in accordance with their restrictions. Out of an abundance of caution, anyone who travels to South Korea during this temporary restriction will not be able to return to any University building or facility for a period of 14 days to allow for self-monitoring for any coronavirus symptoms. For students, please call the Barnes Center at The Arch at 315.443.8000 to coordinate with health and student support professionals. Faculty and staff should contact their primary care physicians to seek guidance.
- Syracuse Abroad Risk Monitoring: We are continuing our aggressive monitoring of coronavirus risk near all of our Syracuse Abroad academic centers, so that we are prepared to suspend additional programs if the need arises. Please know, we will and are doing everything we can to avoid suspending more programs, but we must continue to prioritize the health, safety and movement of our students.
- Compassion and Care: The University community will remain steadfast in its commitment to provide care and offer empathy to our international students, many of whom are facing incredible challenges, including not being able to travel home and daily worry about their loved ones back home. I urge our community members to practice kindness and compassion with faculty, staff and students from affected regions. You responded admirably, helping our students raise more than $53,000 for “A Hand for Wuhan” to send much-needed medical supplies to the hardest hit areas in China.
- International Student Support: Dozens of faculty and staff are working hard to accommodate the needs of our international students who may be unable or unwilling to return home during the summer due to the virus. For our graduating seniors, we are working to build pathways to graduate enrollment, allowing them to keep their visas and advance their education. For matriculated students, we are identifying summer housing, classes and work opportunities, should they choose to stay in Syracuse.
- New Incoming International Students: While we still have more than two months left in the Spring 2020 semester, we are already preparing for the arrival of our new students. Many international students planning to attend Syracuse University in the fall are already seeking the University’s support in anticipation of their arrival. As such, Student Experience, particularly the Center for International Services, Academic Affairs and others are working to provide personalized support to those individuals beginning their academic careers at Syracuse later this year.
- Central New York Working Group: We are expanding a working group of faculty, staff, health professionals, emergency managers and administrators to prepare for the possibility of an outbreak in Central New York. We are fortunate to have faculty and staff who are well versed in this subject matter area. I am grateful for those of you who have stepped up to offer your expertise, services and support as we seek to ensure our community is fully prepared for whatever impact the coronavirus may cause.
- Good Health Practices: we are continuing to educate and encourage all members of our campus community to continue to exercise good health practices, including hand washing and use of hand sanitizer, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces frequently. Hand sanitizer and medical-grade masks have been ordered and will be supplied as appropriate. To learn more about preventive health practices, please visit the Barnes Center at The Arch website. Students should call the Barnes Center at The Arch (315.443.8000), and faculty and staff should contact their primary care physician should they develop symptoms of a respiratory illness, including fever, cough or shortness of breath.
Finally, because the situation is changing rapidly, we encourage you to carefully monitor the CDC and State Department websites for information about your destination, domestic or foreign, before you travel. You will continue to hear from me and other University leaders as new developments emerge and additional actions are taken.
Chancellor Kent Syverud