Dear Members of the CMU Community:
I am writing to update you on the steps we are taking to protect the health and well-being of our community amid the global health risk posed by coronavirus.
First, we learned this morning there are two presumed cases of the virus in Pennsylvania that are in the northeastern and southeastern regions. This is not an unexpected development given the recent spread, and there is no indication that there is any immediate risk to our community in southwestern Pennsylvania as a result of this announcement. We will continue to track guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and remain in daily contact with the Allegheny County Health Department and local experts. We will update the www.cmu.edu/alert page with official university guidance as we get new information on a daily – sometime hourly – basis.
During this time, the safety of the Carnegie Mellon community around the world remains the primary focus behind all of our efforts, including the recent travel restrictions that were announced by Provost Jim Garrett earlier this week. We also are working diligently to ensure continuity of the university’s mission in the event the virus makes its way to any of our campuses. I have asked Provost Garrett and Dean Gina Casalegno to chair several working groups to help the university stay ahead of developments, create comprehensive plans to safeguard our community, maintain smooth operations and deliver consistent communications. These efforts have been underway for over a month and are aimed at mitigating potential short- and long-term impacts.
- Student Health and Wellness: As an accredited health care facility, University Health Services (UHS) has staff who are trained in current infectious disease control procedures, and protocols are in place if someone were to present with symptoms requiring testing, isolation and/or care. UHS has been planning for weeks to ensure they have ample medical supplies and staffing to be prepared to care for our student community. In addition, Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is available, day or night, for students seeking confidential support.
- Dining and Residence Halls: We are preparing for the students who have decided to remain on the Pittsburgh campus for the upcoming spring break. Residence halls will remain open and several dining locations will be staffed and operating on schedules to accommodate these additional students. I encourage any Pittsburgh student who wants to stay on campus to feel free to do so.
- Education and Research: The provost’s Coronavirus Planning Committee for Academic Matters, consisting of both faculty and staff, has been working closely with the academic units and emergency preparedness team to develop, and in some cases implement, distance and online learning strategies to be enacted under a variety of scenarios. In coordination with the Office of the Vice President for Research, they also are identifying issues and solutions with regard to our research enterprise, including our work at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI).
- International Programs and Campuses: The Office of International Education is in contact with all students studying internationally and is working closely with them to ensure they are able to complete the semester in a safe, healthy environment. We also are in close touch with our global locations and are coordinating with them on the appropriate measures for their regions. We are aware of confirmed cases near our Silicon Valley campus in California and the university is working closely with campus leadership to respond accordingly, taking direction from the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department on precautions and communications.
- Events: We are examining all upcoming on- and off-campus events to safeguard the health of our community members and guests. This has already led to some cancellations and postponements, including alumni events in New York and Chicago this month. A working group is also assessing plans for Carnival and Commencement to enhance community health measures for those events.
- Business Continuity: Thanks to our team in Enterprise Risk Management, an emergency preparedness and response team is ready to activate, if necessary. Their plan engages multiple units across campus, including the Provost’s Office, University Health Services, University Events, Student Affairs, Computing Services, the Office of International Education, Housing and Dining Services, and Human Resources. This group is working through multiple scenarios to ensure essential operations will continue in the case of an emergency.
- Facilities: We have established formal training for cleaning staff on proper disinfection for touched surfaces, and custodial managers are attending a special coronavirus training program later this month. Portable hand sanitizing stations have been mounted at building exits and in other high-traffic areas and Facilities Management and Campus Services has placed orders for additional supplies.
- Enrollment: We are engaged in planning for longer-term effects on our people and programs, including exploring potential impacts on Fall 2020 enrollment. This is especially critical for our significant international graduate student population, so contingency plans are under consideration.
I am grateful to Provost Garrett and Dean Casalegno for their exceptional leadership during this time. I also wish to thank all of the faculty and staff involved in the working groups, as well as the deans, department heads and other leaders contributing to these conversations.
To our students: as many of you prepare for spring break next week, I hope the respite from classes provides time for some fun and relaxation. I also want to urge you to be vigilant, stay safe, and pay close attention to your physical, emotional and mental health. And as always, please look out for one another, on or off campus.
In this uncertain environment, we are making complex decisions armed with the best information we have available to us. Our CMU community is resilient, and we are even stronger when we face challenges as one united community, and when we lead with compassion and care.
Henry L. Hillman President’s Chair