Dear students, staff, faculty, and parents:
Gallaudet University is preparing for COVID-19, the 2019 novel coronavirus, as it begins to have an impact on the metropolitan Washington area. As of Thursday evening, March 5, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the District of Columbia or Virginia. However, there are three confirmed cases in Maryland.
Washington, D.C. is a cosmopolitan city and an international capital, and Gallaudet is an international university. The routine comings and goings of our community members may expose some of them to risk.
The health and safety of our students, staff, and faculty is our top priority. We would like to share with you what we are doing to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak.
- Our Chief Operating Officer and the members of our Crisis Leadership Team are at the forefront of our preparations. They meet frequently, communicate often with one another, and report to me on a daily basis. We also are in contact with the other 17 member institutions of the Consortium of Universities of the Metropolitan Washington Area. Our Director of Public Safety is working with emergency managers at the other schools. Our Student Health Service maintains contact with DC Health, the city’s public health agency.
- We are communicating on a daily basis with all members of our community via our website, email, video, and text message. These communications are primarily informational and educational in nature. They include tips, updates, and resources, and are delivered in both American Sign Language and written English. We are especially grateful to the students in our undergraduate public health program, and those who work as peer health advocates, for creating educational videos. This is great first-hand experience for them.
- Our Student Health Service (SHS) is able to test students for influenza, but is not yet able to test for COVID-19. SHS is working closely with DC Health to coordinate health care for students who may develop COVID-19.
- We have made available hand sanitizers to all community members, and are providing cleaning and disinfecting supplies to all campus offices. We also are increasing attention to the cleanliness of high-density areas, including classrooms, residence halls, dining facilities, and public restrooms.
- We are providing educational programs to increase awareness of COVID-19, including a webinar on Wednesday, March 11.
- We are developing contingency plans to assure public health and safety for a variety of scenarios. For example, our faculty is preparing to provide online instruction if necessary. We are also considering restrictions on campus visitors and deciding whether to proceed with large events on campus.
- We are suspending all international travel by university employees and students. This international travel prohibition applies to university-sponsored and grant-funded travel.
- We are communicating with our students about the precautions they should take if they travel anywhere during spring break. In particular, students who are traveling to State Department Level 3 countries should self-disclose to the Office of International Affairs, and should know that they can not return to Gallaudet for 14 days after their return to the United States. We encourage all students to enroll in the United States government’s free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at https://step.state.gov/ to stay informed about changing travel situations. You may wish to do so as well. We are currently monitoring study abroad programs, summer internships, and other international learning opportunities, and will update the community if there are any changes as a result.
- The Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center, which includes Kendall Demonstration Elementary School and the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, is working in concert with the university, and is also developing its own contingency plans. They will be in touch with their students’ families.
The World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and DC Health are our primary sources of information and guidance. Please monitor these sites and reputable media sources for the most up-to-date, accurate information.
We are cautiously optimistic that we will weather this public health crisis, but this is a very fluid, fast-moving situation. Gallaudet is prepared to adapt. I ask that you reach out to your family, friends, and colleagues at home and here at Gallaudet and give them all the support they need. I also ask that you be safe, and that you engage in health-aware practices. Your well-being is tied to everyone else’s well-being.
Here are tips that we are sharing with our whole community:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if you have symptoms of acute respiratory illness.
- Stay home from work or school until you are free of fever, signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours and without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medications.
- Seek medical attention if you have reason to believe you have been exposed to coronavirus or influenza.
- Call your healthcare provider before visiting a health care facility.
Thank you for reading this message. Again, please know that we are putting your health and safety first. If you have any questions or concerns about COVID-19 and our response, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. This email address is monitored and staffed by the team managing Gallaudet’s response to COVID-19.
Roberta J. Cordano