Dear students, faculty and staff,
As you know, St. Thomas is closely monitoring the global situation regarding COVID-19 infections caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus, and we will continue to share frequent updates to help you stay informed of the university’s response.
Please bookmark this page on our Center for Well-Being’s website to easily access all information provided to date, including guidelines related to travel, prevention tips and what to do if you begin experiencing symptoms. Your health and safety are important to us, and we are committed to providing any and all helpful information.
Supporting each other
We as a university community must continue to hold true to our core values during this time. It is important that fear resulting from this situation never be turned toward individuals or groups based on race, country of origin or other factors. Additionally, we have a special responsibility to those who are far from home, who are concerned for loved ones who may be at risk, and who may be the least likely to have a local network of support. We all must remember that we are a community and must support each and every member of the university.
As communicated earlier this week, all university-related international travel through the end of the spring semester must be approved by the Office of the Provost. This includes all trips for which transportation has already been purchased. We understand this will disrupt many travel plans and apologize for the inconvenience.
Regarding personal travel – the university strongly discourages all international personal travel. We realize many of you have planned vacations, including trips over the upcoming spring break period. Please take time to carefully weigh the potential risks to your health and the health of our community. Additionally, travel restrictions can change rapidly with little notice and potentially impact your ability to return to campus and continue with classes or work.
CDC travel health notices
All university community members are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the CDC’s travel health notices, paying particularly close attention to countries that have received warning level designations. As of today, the CDC has issued a Warning Level 3 to four countries (meaning people should avoid nonessential travel to these countries). We encourage everyone to frequently check this site to ensure you’re receiving up-to-date information on any countries that have been added to this list.
Self-monitor versus self-quarantine versus self-isolate
Equally important is understanding the differences between self-monitoring for symptoms, self-quarantine and self-isolation. The definitions are easy to confuse, so please refer to the following explanations:
- Self-monitor means watching carefully for any symptoms, including mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough or difficulty breathing. If you begin experiencing these symptoms, you should stay home and contact your health care provider or the Center for Well-Being.
- Self-quarantine means you who don’t have any symptoms associated with COVID-19 but were notified that you were potentially exposed to a case, or have traveled to an area/country with widespread sustained COVID-19 activity (see CDC website for most recent list). You should stay at home and monitor your health for 14 days from either your exposure to a case, or from after returning from the impacted area. If you begin experiencing symptoms, you should contact your health care provider or the Center for Well-Being.
- Self-isolation means you are exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and were notified that you were exposed to a case, or you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and recently returned from an area/country with widespread sustained COVID-19 activity (see CDC website for most recent list). You should stay home, and must be in contact with a health care provider about your health, testing recommendations, and when you can return to regular activities, such as work, school, etc.
Out of an abundance of caution, all St. Thomas community members returning from a country with a CDC Warning Level 3 must self-quarantine for a period of 14 days before returning to campus. This practice is in line with CDC recommendations. We have communicated this requirement to all students who are returning from Study Abroad programs (including those impacted by the closure of our Rome programs).
All St. Thomas community members returning from a country with a CDC Level 2 travel advisory must self-monitor for 14 days but are not required to self-quarantine away from campus.
Study abroad programs
As mentioned earlier, we made the difficult decision last week to close our Rome programs for the remainder of the semester. The students participating in those programs are returning to the U.S. this week and will self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to campus. Those who have chosen to live on campus when they return will do so during spring break, provided they are not experiencing symptoms.
As you may know, we have a number of students participating in study abroad programs run by third-party organizations. Although the organizations running these programs are monitoring their situations, we also are receiving regular updates on these students and remain in communication with them. We have let them know the university is ready to assist them if and when they wish to return to the U.S. ahead of schedule.
Domestic travel and spring break
COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the U.S. As of right now, however, the CDC is not recommending travel restrictions domestically and St. Thomas is not discouraging domestic travel. Regardless, we urge all travelers to exercise caution, practice good hygiene to guard against the spread of illness and be aware of confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in the locations you plan to visit.
Spring break at St. Thomas begins March 23. Please consider your travel plans carefully, including the possibility of amending those plans if they involve international travel. Travel restrictions can change rapidly with little notice. The university will remain open during spring break, and current students who live on campus can remain living in the residence halls during all or part of the break, if they choose. Dining services will be available on a reduced, limited schedule.
It is possible the evolving COVID-19 situation may impact future events St. Thomas is sponsoring, and events in which university community members are participating. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict how COVID-19 will spread. We must remain flexible and be prepared to enact contingency plans that will allow the university to continue serving its students and employees in as safe a manner as possible.
A team of university officials has been meeting daily to review global updates, assess the impact on St. Thomas and make recommendations accordingly. This group represents multiple functions across the university, including health services, academic and student affairs, public safety, facilities, finance, general counsel, communications and other departments. This team is also charged with refining contingency plans that will help the university be prepared for a variety of events, including the extreme circumstance of closing the university. Additionally, faculty will be preparing contingency plans that will allow for academic continuity (including online instruction) in the event that public health officials recommend in-person classes not be held.
We will continue to make every effort to keep you informed of updates that will impact our university community. In closing, we are resharing links to some resources you may find helpful.
Thank you for your patience, attention and consideration.
Karen M. Lange, EdD
Vice President for Student Affairs
University Action and Response Team Co-chair
Director, Department of Public Safety
University Action and Response Team Co-chair