Dear Members of the Southwestern Community,
I am writing with an update on COVID-19 and Southwestern's current actions and preparations. I want to assure you that we are taking this international outbreak seriously and that we are monitoring the situation closely, receiving updates and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the L.A. County Department of Public Health. There are no confirmed cases of the virus at Southwestern.
I’ve asked Michael Carter, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, to lead our Pandemic Response Team that is meeting regularly to assess the situation. This team has created a Pandemic Response Plan and is working together to implement and further develop the steps that are needed to keep our school and community healthy and safe. For example, we have increased the frequency of our cleaning and sanitizing of frequently touched surfaces.
In line with current guidance from public health authorities, we are continuing normal operations: classes are still meeting and events are still occurring. In concert with our concern for safety, we are also dedicated to the continued learning of our students. We are preparing for the greater use of distance methods if we later become prevented from continuing our normal operations. Above all, we are hopeful that everyone will be able to complete this semester with as little disruption as possible.
What can we all do? Each one of us can help prevent the spread of this virus, the flu, and other infectious diseases. Here is an updated list of the things from the CDC and L.A. County Department of Health that you can do to help keep all of us healthy. We all need to change some of our behaviors:
- Stay home when you're sick or have flu-like symptoms. If you have symptoms of acute respiratory illness, please stay home and do not come to work or class until you are free of fever (100.4° F or greater using an oral thermometer), and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g., cough suppressants).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- It's sensible to avoid shaking hands right now to reduce the risk of spreading infection. Though that might be awkward at times, it's an increasingly common practice in hospitals and clinics.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and then dispose of the tissue and clean your hands immediately. If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve (not your hands).
- Limit close contact with people who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipes. Southwestern has changed our cleaning of surfaces and access points, etc.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Practice healthy habits (get enough sleep, exercise, liquids, etc.)
We emphasize how important it is not to come to school or work if you are sick. If you are feeling mildly ill and are weighing whether to come to campus, please err on the side of health and safety and stay at home until you have been symptom-free for at least 24 hours. For students who miss class due to illness in this period, please rest assured that medical absences are given great weight in the application of Southwestern's attendance policy. If you have any questions about the application of Southwestern's attendance policy, please contact the Dean of Students Office.
The health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our top priority. Below is more detail on the current state of COVID-19 and links for more information.
Let's try to help one another make the change to our behaviors so that we keep everyone healthy.
Dean Susan Prager
International. The WHO is NOT calling this a global pandemic since the virus is only currently severely affecting South Korea, Iran, Japan, and Italy. As of today, there have been over 93,000 confirmed cases across 73 countries and territories. 80,000 of those cases have occurred in mainland China. Over 3,100 total deaths have occurred (Less than 200 outside of mainland China).
Nationally. The CDC reports that "information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness." The CDC reports that the United States has seen over 100 cases of COVID-19. Nine deaths have occurred in the U.S. from COVID-19 – all in Washington State. Most of these deaths occurred in a single assisted living facility. While we do not know the exact mortality rate related to this virus, some doctors from the CDC estimate that the mortality rate could be similar to severe seasonal flu (below 1%).
Locally. Today, the Los Angeles County Department of Health announced six new cases of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County. According to officials, these cases were NOT caused by "community spread," which describes the transmission of a disease from unknown sources. All six individuals were exposed to COVID-19 through close contact with others who were previously known to be infected. Out of "an abundance of caution," the department has declared a health emergency in L.A. County. Officials urged the community to stay vigilant and remain calm, saying that this declaration would "allow greater coordination among various levels of government."
Be sure to register for Southwestern Alert at http://www.swlaw.edu/SWALERT.
Please visit the following websites for more information:
L.A. County Health: http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus