Dear Colleagues: Let me start this “syllabus reminders” email with a thank you. What a year 2020 has been, and we are barely halfway through it. You migrated your classes online last spring with little advance notice. Those of you…
Public Health Framework for Fall 2020
Dear Members of the Syracuse University Community:
Right now, many Syracuse University administrators, faculty and staff are working tirelessly to prepare our campus to resume a residential experience beginning on Aug. 24. Central to our planning is the development of a robust, comprehensive and science-based strategy to safeguard the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and the Central New York community.
With this clear focus in mind, for the past month, the Public Health and Emergency Management Subcommittee of the Fall 2020 Open Working Group has been working to develop a framework to ensure Syracuse University is fully equipped and prepared to safely resume campus operations. The subcommittee—which includes public health faculty members, epidemiologists, doctors, medical and wellness professionals, and representatives from student life, facilities and other relevant departments across campus—recently delivered an initial draft of the framework to Fall 2020 Open Working Group co-chairs John Liu, interim vice chancellor and provost, and Amanda Nicholson, interim senior vice president for enrollment and the student experience, as well as the deans of the schools and colleges.
The subcommittee’s report is currently under review by public-sector health officials. It includes more than 100 recommendations that will serve as a foundation for our schools and colleges to develop and implement strategies that are uniquely tailored to their facilities, people and curricula, and the broader needs and challenges associated with safely resuming face-to-face instruction given the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.
As we await feedback from the ongoing external review, we want to share some of the core findings and foundational guidance included in the subcommittee’s report. These policies and actions, among others, will be taken by Syracuse University to protect and maintain the health and well-being of our campus community:
- screening the entire student population for COVID-19 at the start of the semester and implementing an ongoing regimen of regular random screening of students, faculty and staff throughout the fall semester;
- implementing a residence hall wastewater surveillance program to monitor for the presence of COVID-19 across individual residence halls, as well as requiring students, faculty and staff to undergo routine temperature screening;
- deploying a rapid diagnostic point-of-care testing site, accessible to any student suspected of infection or exposure to the virus causing the COVID-19 illness;
- developing and implementing, in coordination with local public health officials a robust contract tracing program appropriate to quickly mitigate potential spread of COVID-19 on campus;
- establishing a residential facility where students who are suspected or confirmed to have been exposed to the virus can be isolated, while they continue their studies via remote means;
- supporting an expedited ability to identify suspected COVID-19 presence on campus—requiring that all students, faculty and staff who reside or work on campus be immunized for influenza;
- leveraging a comprehensive COVID-19 health promotion and communications effort that includes physical and digital signage, social media posts and badges, and regular campus notifications—all designed to encourage healthy behaviors while on campus and support proactive prevention and transmission of the virus;
- requiring face masks or face coverings for all students, faculty, staff and visitors while on campus, in the presence of others, and in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain;
- providing a facilities revision process to facilitate the installation of partitions and other protective materials as appropriate to safeguard individual and public health;
- limiting the size of in-person meetings and classes based on the guidance from local, state and federal orders, and generally not to exceed 30 persons; larger meetings may be considered in physical spaces where 6 feet of social distancing can be accommodated; however, the number of participants will generally not exceed 50 percent of the room’s stated capacity;
- continuing some limitations on travel, as practical, for faculty, students and staff; in addition, visitors and guests will generally be restricted from accessing residential buildings and other campus facilities, unless as part of an official University tour or without prior approval from the relevant dean, director or unit leader;
- encouraging and supporting individuals with increased risk of severe illness associated with COVID-19 disease, or over the age of 65, with flexible working arrangements;
- requiring student participation in an online educational seminar, prior to the start of the fall semester and designed to inform students about the health behaviors expected and required during the fall semester;
- demonstrating an unwavering commitment to enforcing policies aimed at preventing the transmission of COVID-19;
- providing necessary academic, wellness, mental health and social supports to all members of the University community in an inclusive and culturally competent manner; and
- creating a COVID-19 public health advisory group, composed of representatives from the medical and public health professions, for the purpose of advising University leadership regarding any COVID-related contingencies impacting the Fall 2020 semester and beyond.
Syracuse University will continue to take a science-based approach to planning for the fall, in a way that prioritizes the well-being of our community when we return to campus in August. While it is unreasonable to assume that we can entirely eliminate the risk of student, faculty or staff exposure to the COVID-19 disease, we are confident that our strategy is comprehensive and informed by the best public health information and guidance currently available.
We will continue to provide regular updates about health and safety actions to ensure a safe and meaningful residential campus experience for the fall and beyond.
J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation