March 8, 2020

Coronavirus planning and preparedness

Dear UCI community,

Since my last message, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has increased significantly across the U.S. We expect this number will continue to climb with more widespread testing. It is also reasonable to assume that, at some point, there will be a confirmed case within our region, and perhaps within our campus community. Understandably, these possibilities lead to elevated worry, concern, and anxiety, especially for those who have family in impacted regions or who are in higher-risk populations.

Campus Status 
The campus continues to remain open and is operating normally. We are fortunate that no confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported at UCI, but we continue to watch the global and regional situation carefully and assess the local impact with our partners from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Orange County Health Care Agency. 

After careful review of our local situation and following consultation with health professionals, we have assessed that the risk of transmission associated with classroom instruction remains low. We will continue to monitor and assess the risk, but at the present time, there is no reason for us to suspend ordinary instructional activity. In-person classroom meetings will be under normal operation for the week of March 9th.

We are aware that a small number of other universities, with different local circumstances, have suspended normal in-person classroom meetings. Rest assured: we are prepared to do the same should our local situation change. We are consulting on a daily basis with the State Department of Public Health, Orange County officials, university health officials, and UC Office of the President.

While we are not ending in-person classroom meetings at this time, we do understand the value of increased “social distancing” as a way of preventing the transmission of the virus. Today, in partnership with the Academic Senate, we are encouraging instructors to exercise flexibility and to adjust their course practices and policies to accommodate students who cannot attend in-person classes or take in-person finals during the remaining two weeks of the quarter.

Faculty have already begun planning to ensure that Spring instruction will proceed even if illness, quarantine, or travel restrictions prevent students or an instructor from coming to campus. If the facts justify additional restrictive steps, we will be prepared to act quickly to adjust our practices to better protect the health of our community, including suspending in-person classroom meetings. But that is not the situation we face at this time.

Operational Continuity 
As we consider future developments, faculty and staff should take steps to prepare for the possibility of a reduced campus operation, should that become necessary, including instruction, events, seminars, and other university business to be conducted fully online or remotely. 

While no decisions have been made yet to close large gatherings such as concerts, sporting events, conventions, or large community events, this remains a possibility for the future. As such, organizers should exercise key prevention strategies in your events operation plan.

Even if the campus needs to move to a hybrid or completely virtual instruction model, for planning purposes the campus community should assume that the campus will remain open in other ways. Additional details will be provided at the time, but we expect buildings will be open and faculty will have access to their offices, labs, and classroom facilities. On-campus housing will remain open. Plans for managing confirmed cases within on-campus residents have been developed and will be implemented in consultation with local public health officials should it become necessary. Dining services in residence halls will also continue to serve students with meal plans.

Travel Considerations 
Additionally, students, faculty and staff should consider seriously whether personal travel is necessary at this time. If you are to leave for international travel now or at spring break, then you should understand there are real restrictions on getting back to the U.S., as well as the potential challenges of getting flights back home. Domestic travel is currently easier, but we are seeing a reduction in service in travel routes. While we can hope that transportation hubs will remain open, we cannot predict that will be the case upon your return to campus. 

Travel restrictions will become stricter as confirmed cases of COVID-19 increase and high-risk Level 2-3 regions are identified. Whether you travel abroad or locally, you should be prepared to arrange for off-campus accommodations to self-quarantine for 14 days upon your return should you return from a restricted jurisdiction (International or Domestic) or are exposed to an individual suspected positive for COVID-19. Other unanticipated restrictions may apply as public health officials monitor the situation.

Your Health & Wellness 
Should you need support to manage this difficult time, the Counseling Center is open to all students, and employees may find guidance through the Employee Assistance Program.

As a reminder, we recommend observing these simple tips to help stay well:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Stop touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Instead of shaking hands, find alternate ways to greet people.
  • Cover your mouth with your elbow when you cough.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces often.
  • If you are sick, stay home and do not travel. 
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor or the Student Health Center to arrange a time to be seen.

Please stay abreast of the latest communications from UCI at the COVID-19 webpage. We will continue to make regular updates to FAQs and details about modified campus operations as new information is available.

I remain committed to ensuring that UCI delivers a world-class education while prioritizing the health and safety of our community. Thank you for doing your part to protect our community.