Update on the University's Response to COVID-19
From the Office of the President
Dear St. Catherine Community:
I write today with an update on our continuing actions in response to novel coronavirus (COVID-19). This is a rapidly evolving situation, and as such, causes stress and anxiety for all of us. As we do not know where this situation will take us over the next few days, weeks, or even months, it will become part of our new normal and require us to be flexible, compassionate, and proactive. It is also our responsibility as advocates for social justice to do what we can to protect the health and wellbeing of others as well as ourselves.
At this time, there have been nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. Currently there are no confirmed cases on any college or university campuses, including St. Catherine University. We are working closely with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to monitor and assess the situation, and will continue to partner with them as we move forward. Our guiding philosophy is to follow guidelines for higher education from MDH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for higher education. At this time, MDH is NOT recommending colleges or universities take steps to limit class participation, shift all learning online, or close campuses.
While much remains unknown regarding how COVID-19 will evolve locally, we do know the best preventative measures we can take are to maximize individual health practices and to engage in social distancing by reducing social interactions and contact with others.
The goal of social distancing, which means reducing the number of points of contact with others, is to slow the spread of the virus. We know that the key to effective social distancing is timing. The earlier it is employed, the more successful it will be. Social distancing helps keep the number of those infected at a level that the health care systems can manage. This results in health care services not being overwhelmed so they have the capacity to care for people, and thus fewer deaths. When people limit their contact with each other, fewer people will be sick at once (and overall). Slowing the spread of the virus also increases time for health care providers to treat the flood of patients and for researchers to develop vaccines and antiviral therapies.
Based on this information and guidance, we are taking the following measures to safeguard the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and surrounding communities.
Our current spring break was scheduled from March 23-29. After serious deliberation and evaluation, we made the decision to extend spring break to two weeks, beginning Monday, March 16 through Sunday, March 29. All students are strongly advised to leave campus during this break if they are able and as soon as they can. This may include going home or staying with a friend or relative. Faculty are expected to use next week to prepare to move their face-to-face courses online in the event that the University makes the decision to move to online classes after spring break. A separate email will be sent to faculty with additional information.
University operations will continue during spring break. Students currently living on campus who cannot make arrangements to stay away from campus during spring break must work with Student Affairs and Residence Life in order to be permitted to stay on campus during the break. The Butler Center will be closed during the break. The library, residence halls, dining and other services will remain open with limited service or reduced hours, which will be posted online.
A survey was sent out earlier today by Housing and Residence Life to students who live on campus. If you are a residential student, please complete this survey no later than noon on Friday, March 13.
Clinicals and Fieldwork
We are working closely with our community and clinical partners and will follow their policies and guidance related to students in clinical settings. Some clinical and fieldwork experiences will be allowed to continue as scheduled. Students will receive notification from their program director regarding decisions to suspend or continue clinical rotations, practicum, or fieldwork experiences during the extended spring break. At this time, we plan to resume any suspended clinical experiences on March 30 in accordance with our partners’ policies.
Post-Spring Break Classes
As of now, the University should prepare to resume regular operations and in-person class schedules March 30. We will provide an update to all students, faculty, and staff on Wednesday, March 25, regarding operations and classes for March 30 and beyond via LiveSafe and email.
During the extended break, the University will be engaged in proactive planning for a variety of potential scenarios as this situation continues to evolve. Those contingency plans include shifting all coursework online or flexible options, how we would accommodate any individuals who may need to self-quarantine or self-monitor, and other measures. A key part of this work is ensuring that all of our students have a plan in case of a residential hall closure, including those who may not be able to travel home, are facing food security issues, or other needs that might not be met if they are not able to be on campus.
Faculty and Staff
Because our campuses are remaining open, faculty and staff are expected to report to their primary work location. For employees who have special medical circumstances, please contact Human Resources (HR).
Based on guidance from the CDC, we have suspended all non-essential, University-related travel, both domestic and international, effective immediately through May 31. We will reassess this policy in May for summer and fall travel. Requests for exceptions will be reviewed and decided by the Incident Management Team. The request should be made through your leadership structure, who will forward it to the Incident Management Team.
The staff in the Office of Global Studies is working closely with St. Kate’s students who are studying abroad. They are following the guidance of the U.S. State Department (travel advisories), the CDC (coronavirus 2019-nCoV summary), and the World Health Organization (emergencies - novel coronavirus 2019). They have been in contact with each student and will continue to monitor the situation at each location and make decisions on an individual basis.
For those with personal travel plans, we advise you to review the U.S. State Department (travel advisories) and CDC travel advisories to assess any potential risks and consider any changes you may want to make. It is possible that travel restrictions will continue to expand and could affect your ability to return home or to the University. Please be aware that as this situation evolves, you may be required to self-quarantine for 14 days based on your travel.
With the NCAA announcing the cancellation of all winter and spring championships, we are working with the MIAC to determine the future of spring sports. An announcement will follow as soon as a decision is made by the MIAC. At this point in time, all team air travel is cancelled.
Effective now through April 1, we are advising that any events for 30 or more people scheduled at the University be canceled or rescheduled. University Events will be in contact with University and external partners who have planned events through them. Those who have planned department events should work with their supervisors to determine the best course of action. Please check with The O’Shaughnessy regarding scheduled performances.
The campaign launch will still take place virtually next Thursday, March 19. The on-campus portion of the event has been postponed, and a new date is TBD. We hope you will still be able to join us for the virtual elements of the campaign and celebrate this exciting time. Visit the website or St. Kate’s social media at 12 p.m. on March 19 to participate.
To promote social distancing and reduce points of contact with others, students should not report to scheduled hourly positions during this extended spring break. If this change to your work schedule causes a severe financial hardship, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Things to Know
We have set up a central email to respond to your questions regarding the University and COVID-19 – email@example.com
You can find the most up-to-date information on our COVID-19 Information webpage. We recently expanded our FAQ to answer common questions we have received.
All decisions about the University’s response to COVID-19 are being made in consultation with and guidance from public health officials at the national, state, and local level.
HR is reviewing policies related to employee absences as they relate to a potential employee illness, isolation or quarantine, staff shortage, or closure. Tomorrow, HR will be sending out a communication to all divisional leaders requesting information regarding essential and nonessential services. This information will help us proactively develop a contingency work plan to ensure all essential services continue.
Sodexo, which manages our food service, is also taking specific actions globally and locally to ensure the safety and health of those they serve. This includes ensuring access to essential personal protective equipment, developing alternative menus and serving options if there is an impact on the food chain, special instruction on preventing the spread of COVID-19, reinforcement of existing food safety policies, and increased cleaning and disinfecting.
We know you may have a lot of questions, many of which we do not have the answers to at this moment. Please know that we are working diligently to find answers and the best solutions for all so that we can maintain a safe, healthy environment. We will communicate as quickly as we can when there is a change driven by new circumstances with our campus community, our clinical partners, our higher education colleagues, or our fellow citizens.
Take a deep breath. No one is in this alone; we are in this boat together. We have many people who care and are making the best decisions they can, guided by our values in a situation with limited information and very short time periods. We are being as open and honest as we can. We are examining our situation through the lens of equity, fairness, and respect knowing that not all see it the same way. And if there ever was a time for reflection--for contemplating all life experience and examining the mystery of human purpose--I would say this is an outstanding time to do that.
Thank you. For your patience. For your partnership. For your trust.
Our ship is strong, and I am glad we are on it together….just not too close!
Be safe and well,