COVID-19: Week in Review and Looking Ahead (3/20/2020)
March 20, 2020
Dear students, faculty, and staff,
We have continued to see extraordinary change this week, at Tufts and across the world. Governments, businesses, and universities are continually adapting to new circumstances to safeguard the community’s health and to marshal resources to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Tufts continues to take significant steps to ensure the health, well-being, and safety of our students, our faculty, our staff, and the members of our host communities, especially those who are most vulnerable to infection. We realize that many of these changes have caused disruption and inconvenience, but we are committed to doing what is right to play our part in fighting the spread of COVID-19.
In keeping with our civic obligations, President Anthony Monaco this week outlined in a Boston Globe op-ed his thoughts for how colleges and universities can take on a leadership role in relieving the unprecedented stress of COVID-19 on our health-care system. His ideas, published also in Tufts Now, are receiving wide attention.
Though I recognize that portions of this email digest will only pertain to certain groups within the community, I urge you to read the entire message.
If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to the virus, please contact your doctor for guidance. If you have had a positive COVID-19 test, please immediately notify firstname.lastname@example.org so we can communicate with others who may have been exposed. If you have other questions or concerns, please contact the crisis communications center, which covers all campuses, at email@example.com.
Our Frequently Asked Questions page continues to be updated, and a new section on public health and medical issues has been added. A Research Continuity Update is now available, too. If your question is not answered in an existing FAQ, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. The situation is constantly evolving; please visit go.tufts.edu/coronavirus frequently for updates.
Changes to Medford/Somerville Student Health Service
Beginning Monday, March 23, the Health Service will be making a change to adjust to the ways outpatient centers are operating and testing for COVID-19.
The majority of visits to Health Services on the Medford/Somerville campus will be done through telemedicine for the next several weeks and possibly beyond. Students can call Health Service from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. They will be triaged by phone and given a telemedicine appointment with one of our clinicians. Most concerns and needs can be addressed in this manner.
Though the doors of Health Service will be locked, if, after a telemedicine appointment, it is determined that an in-person visit is needed, the student will be directed to a door designated for non-respiratory disease concerns and be seen in exam rooms designated for this purpose.
If it is determined a student might meet the criterion for COVID-19 testing after a phone appointment with a clinician, they will be given a time to arrive at Health Service to be further evaluated in a tent area adjacent to the building that will be designated for this purpose.
Precautions and Support Services
Per the latest CDC recommendation, people should seek medical care if they have been in a country with sustained community transmission (level-3 risk assessment) in the past 14 days OR had close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19 infection and develop symptoms of fever and cough.
To help prevent the spread of illness, including the flu and common cold:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Cover your cough with your upper sleeve or elbow to keep germs from spreading.
- Avoid sharing drinks, food, and/or cigarettes or vaping products.
- If you share a room or apartment with someone who is sick, try to stay at least six feet away to prevent exposure through coughing.
Additional guidance for prevention can be found on the CDC website.
We recognize that the impact of COVID-19 is not just physical, and we want to make sure that everyone is aware of support services available. Counseling resources are available through Counseling and Mental Health Services on the Medford/Somerville and Boston SMFA campuses, and through Talk One2One Student Assistance Program on the Health Sciences campuses. Additionally, the Student Advisory & Health Administration Office (SAHA) is a division of Student Affairs for the Boston and Grafton Health Sciences Campuses. Students can also get support through BetterHelp, iHope, and the University Chaplaincy. Faculty and staff may seek support through the Tufts Employee Assistance Program at any time.
Working from Home
As of March 17, all staff except those essential to maintain the university’s operational and academic continuity have been requested to work from home, keeping regular hours and being available for online meetings. Please be sure to visit Tufts Technology Services page for guidance about working from home.
Tufts Technology Services (TTS) continues to support faculty for their transition to online instruction/classes. Faculty should reach out to Educational Technology via email@example.com to receive assistance from an educational technology specialist. Students can learn more about the transition at the Learning Remotely resource page.
The move to online instruction continues to raise a number of questions for students and instructors. In the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, including the SMFA, staff in academic advising and the deans' offices are working toward answers, many of which involve academic deadlines, grading, and credits earned at other institutions. Next week, a number of interim policies and procedures related to undergraduate students will be sent to the AS&E undergraduate community. In the meantime, undergraduate students may direct questions to their advising dean. The graduate and professional schools are also evaluating their academic policies as the situation evolves. Students should visit the relevant websites for their schools and contact their dean of students if more information is needed.
As noted in an email to the research community, on-campus research activities will be limited to those deemed critical to maintaining research capabilities. Critical research activities are those that are absolutely necessary to maintain facilities or irreplaceable research assets, such as:
- Essential care for animals or plants;
- Maintenance of equipment that cannot be shut down or maintained remotely, such as liquid N2 tanks and shared computational networks or servers; and
- Responding to a laboratory or freezer emergency.
All other on-campus research activities must cease, and no new experiments should be started unless they can be done remotely. Animal orders, imports and exports will be stopped. Critical animals/cages or those requiring treatment should be labeled, and consideration should be given to reducing cage census. Cell culture work must stop and cell lines must be frozen. Biological samples, chemicals and other hazardous materials must be properly stored. A checklist is being prepared to aid researchers with the process of suspending on-campus research activities. The checklist will be posted on the OVPR website once available. For more details, please see the email from the OVPR on research continuity sent on March 19.
Events Move Online
As coursework and instruction prepare to move online, events at Tufts are following suit. Inevitably, many previously scheduled events have been canceled or postponed as a result of the university’s current policy on events. But a growing number are being scheduled online via Zoom, WebEx, Skype, and other platforms. We encourage all students, faculty, and staff to check the Tufts Events calendar, SMFA calendar, the Fletcher School event calendar, and Diversity and Inclusion calendar, as well as the Student Life calendar (AS&E), Tufts University Social Collective (TUSC) website (AS&E undergraduates), and school websites for more information.
Calendars for individual departments across the university will also be updated regularly. If you are planning a remote event, make sure you add it to our calendars using links on these webpages.
To ensure that critical information reaches you quickly, please sign up for TuftsAlert if you haven’t already. This emergency alert system, designed to provide the community with urgent updates, may be helpful beyond the present situation to ensure you have information that is critical to your safety.
Please keep in mind that university and school-based decisions are being made on an ongoing basis with great care and consideration for public health and academic continuity. The university has never taken such extraordinary actions in its history. We ask for your patience and I sincerely thank you for your cooperation, understanding, commitment, and flexibility as we move forward together.
Executive Vice President
For the latest updates and guidance from Tufts University, please visit go.tufts.edu/coronavirus.