TO: Stanford University community
FROM: Russell Furr, Associate Vice Provost for Environmental Health & Safety
In response to the rapidly evolving events surrounding COVID-19 (also called novel coronavirus), Stanford has activated an emergency operations organization focused on coordinating the university’s response. I am serving as the leader of that cross-campus group, and in that capacity I am writing to provide an update on the university’s current plans and actions, and to ask for your support in dealing with this challenging situation.
Stanford is updating its information and guidance in the following ways, which may be further updated in the coming days depending on changing local or global conditions. I will provide continuing updates as they become available, and the latest information also will be available for the university community at healthalerts.stanford.edu/covid-19.
Postponement or adjustment of large-scale events
Organizations around the world have been assessing how to help prevent the spread of infection, including through steps they take with respect to events and travel. Many organizations have canceled major events and curtailed travel. At Stanford, we are aiming to balance two imperatives: We are seeking to continue our work of education and research to the greatest extent possible, while also keeping our community safe and protecting the health of communities beyond our campus, as well.
Given the instances of community spread of COVID-19 that have now begun to appear in California and elsewhere, we believe it is our responsibility to take further prudent steps that help to inhibit, rather than accelerate, the spread of the virus. One such step is to reconsider and reduce the number of university events that bring together, in close proximity, large numbers of attendees, particularly those coming from both on and off campus who then return to their communities in a variety of locations around our region, nation and world.
At this time, we are strongly encouraging university units to cancel or postpone events they are hosting between March 4 and April 15 that involve more than 150 participants. This number was selected after internal consultation to provide a baseline for units’ planning while acknowledging the wide variety of events and event spaces we have at the university.
Indeed, we know that the venues and attendees at campus events vary greatly. In some cases, there may be circumstances that suggest a smaller or adjusted event may be appropriate. In evaluating your scheduled events, we urge you to consider the following:
- The number of people attending and the event site. The 150 number provides a baseline for planning. Some events that are smaller, but in confined spaces, should be reconsidered. Some events may be larger, but the facilities involved may allow for sufficient social distancing of attendees, and other safeguards such as reduced attendance, personal hygiene protocols and enhanced cleaning may be possible.
- The numbers of expected international visitors, who may face difficulties coming or returning to their home countries given the changeability of travel restrictions
- The age and health of expected attendees, recognizing that evidence to date suggests greater impacts on vulnerable populations, including older individuals
- The fact that staff will need to help prepare for, service and clean up after your event.
If you believe your event of more than 150 people merits an exception with the above considerations in mind, we ask that you consult with Environmental Health & Safety. We will work with you to assess the risks from a public health perspective. You can initiate your inquiry by completing this form on the Health Alerts website. Completing the form also is the recommended way to get questions answered about any group events your organization may have, whatever their size.
The university events subject to the provisions described above do not include regularly scheduled Stanford academic courses. However, to promote the safest possible conditions for students in regular Stanford academic courses, we also are undertaking heightened sanitary functions, including more frequent cleaning, and are strongly encouraging preventive hygiene practices, as described further below.
R&DE student dining halls and student-managed dining operations will be open to serve only Stanford community members (students, faculty, staff, postdocs, student partners/spouses and children).
Use of technology encouraged for meetings
An effective strategy for minimizing the spread of the virus is greater social distancing, which can include more effective use of technology. When possible, Stanford encourages phone calls or Zoom videoconferences in place of large meetings or face-to-face contact in significant numbers. In addition, managers should require any employees who are sick or are exhibiting signs of illness to stay home.
Enhanced cleaning and preventive hygiene
The university will be conducting more frequent cleaning in common areas and on commonly touched surfaces. Academic, dining and housing spaces are among those where elevated cleaning will be required.
Members of the Stanford community can maximize the effectiveness of these efforts by adhering to previously issued preventive hygiene guidance, including washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands, and cleaning and disinfecting shared surfaces and objects that are touched frequently.
International travel restrictions
Stanford urges all members of the community to reconsider any international travel plans. In addition to the spread of the virus itself, travel restrictions in and out of countries can change at any time, and you may encounter difficulties returning.
In addition, our previous guidance and restrictions continue to be in effect. For members of the campus community, Stanford is restricting university travel to mainland China, South Korea, Italy, Iran or any other country with a CDC Level 3 travel health restriction. Requests for exceptions need to be fielded by a vice president, vice provost, or dean and then forwarded to the Provost’s Office.
No one traveling from China, South Korea, Italy, Iran or any other country with a CDC Level 3 travel health restriction is allowed to be present on campus unless they complete a 14-day self-isolation immediately upon arrival in the U.S. This includes all individuals, including children, with or without symptoms. It also applies to visitors to Stanford.
In addition, due to the number of COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, Stanford continues to recommend avoiding travel to these areas and anticipates the 14-day self-isolation period may be extended to them.
Continued evaluation; website for updates
We know that there are many questions regarding how this virus is impacting various dimensions of campus operations. Contingency planning is actively underway on a number of fronts to anticipate the evolution of the virus’ spread. The university will be making decisions on these matters, and we are committed to communicating regularly with the campus community as these decisions are made.
Moving forward, the university will post all information regarding COVID-19 on healthalerts.stanford.edu/covid-19. All members of the community are encouraged to visit the site regularly for FAQs, including the best ways to protect your personal health, and updates as new information becomes available.
Thank you for your partnership and assistance as Stanford works to confront these important issues.