To the Anteater Community:
As regular readers know, my monthly message normally contains highlights of significant news and events across UCI’s academic, research, and service enterprise. But over the course of this past month UCI – along with the entire world – has had to pivot from business as usual and put in place extraordinary measures to mitigate an extraordinary threat. This message is no exception, and is devoted to one topic: how we are responding to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The enormity of this health crisis can seem overwhelming. There isn’t an aspect of life that has not been turned upside down in the past few weeks, and we are all coping as best we can. None of us has seen anything like it in our lifetime, and none of us knows how and when things might return to normal. I hope that you are doing well in this brave new world.
Let me start by stressing that there is no confirmed case of any person on campus having contracted COVID-19, but it is reasonable to assume that, at some point, there will be one, so the university has taken prudent steps to lessen the risk.
Among the most important elements of the mitigation effort are minimizing face-to-face interactions, reducing commuting and travel, and increasing social distancing. Accordingly, we have taken measures to reduce the number of students and visitors to campus and to our clinical facilities. I won’t list all the steps we have taken, but the most significant are: all campus instruction is now done remotely; as many staff as possible are now telecommuting to work; many buildings and facilities, including residential facilities on campus, are closing; all events, including our Anteater sports teams, have been canceled or postponed; and we are retaining only limited on-site operations for critical functions.
All these initiatives will remain effective for the immediate future. We are working closely with regional, state and federal agencies and as the situation changes, we will reassess when it is safe to resume our former way of teaching, researching and serving the public good.
I and the other leaders of the university extend our heartfelt gratitude to the many thousands of students, staff, faculty, and visitors who have been accepting these new measures with great good faith. Without your support, this adjustment would have been impossible to achieve and the health of our UCI community would have been threatened. I especially thank our students for so quickly and gracefully shifting to remote learning, especially during Finals Week. I know it’s hard to give up the normal college experience that is part and parcel of attending UCI, and we all look forward to the day when we welcome you back to campus.
That's a brief overview of the steps we have taken on campus. But what about UCI and Orange County?
UCI has a special role in the life of Orange County as the region’s only combined academic research university and medical center. On any given day, UCI provides world-class education, research and healthcare to more than 50,000 people – the population of a midsized city. It is with this expertise that we are addressing the urgent need for medical services while getting ahead of the spread of disease with new research and education dedicated to keeping all members of the greater community healthy for the long term.
A team of UCI researchers is already working on a COVID-19 therapeutic drug study. Backed by the National Institutes of Health, this clinical trial is considered the first that has possible efficacy and should be ready for patients soon. Other university work is underway to develop tests, treatments and vaccines to help us identify, contain and prevent pandemics.
No other local health system combines such sophisticated clinical expertise in treating illness and keeping people healthy with the research and education designed to prevent disease and train tomorrow’s health professionals. UCI Health and the Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences integrate seamlessly, combining discovery, teaching and healing to keep our community well. Our public health program has taken the lead in educating about prevention and containment. Its tips are included on our information hub, https://uci.edu/coronavirus/.
In addition, since the day this virus was first recognized, UCI Health researchers and medical experts have worked closely with other hospitals and healthcare providers – regionally and across the nation – sharing best practices while staying current with the latest information, treatments and tools. The medical community is pulling together, with UCI Health at the nexus, and Orange County is safer for it.
Our region is fortunate to have one of the world’s finest academic and medical institutions in its backyard, ready to protect the community with the best medical professionals, educators and researchers. Together with our partners throughout the University of California system, we stand ready to serve.
In closing, please take care of yourself and your loved ones. Nothing is more important than the health and wellbeing of those closest to us.