Thursday, April 2, 9:33 AM

April 2, 2020

Good morning everyone, hope you’re doing well. While I have emphasized being supportive and understanding of students for their benefit, several people have encouraged me to foreground what that means for us as well. Here goes.

Reach out, support and be understanding of students, immediately and especially for the next two weeks, it matters for us in the short and long term. So far we know the university lost 28 students between the end of Winter Quarter and yesterday morning at 7:30 am. Just like us, students are dealing with very real difficulties on a moment-to-moment basis. Everything we do, every email we answer, every way we are understanding (or not) will impact how many students decide to stick with us through the Spring quarter and into the coming year. They are committing their tuition dollars to us during the largest worldwide economic downturn of their (and our) lives. Their experience with you, our support of them, is what will make the difference in them deciding to stick with us.

As I said in a previous update it, has never been more true that we are the university in terms of our students’ experience. They are facing huge challenges now and will continue to face challenges through the coming months of this crisis. Do what you can to support them, be understanding and flexible as they have problems adapting through the Spring Quarter, even if they are not quite as understanding of difficulties you are managing. They are home with their friends and see what other universities are doing. They will have other options for completing their education, many of them far less expensive at a time when that really matters. We don’t know when universities will be bringing students back on campuses; I hope and expect it will be Fall 2020 but it could be Winter quarter or later. That day will come and when it does we want our students to believe even more strongly in our education and what we’re about. We want them to know how great it will be to be here in person from how well we supported them now. We won’t do this perfectly but we do need to do our best and we need to be understanding and supportive. We want them to be better educated and feel better treated than their friends at other universities. Quality education with cura personalis. Otherwise we won’t be worth it.

Development has raised over $400,000 from alumni and donors to support students facing economic hardship. The fundraising effort I mentioned earlier has been successful in raising funds to support students.

Please turn in outstanding expense reports from development fund requests. We are looking at ways to provide some development funds for scholarly activities that can be supported in the Spring Quarter but we need to have a clearer handle on how much we have remaining after returning some funds to the university to help the spring budget shortfall. Please send outstanding development fund receipts to Lisa Ferrin asap.


I have not seen any major changes here in the past 24 hours.

Mike Myint Update – he’s back today with a perspective on how 50 different state solutions impact the spread of the virus.

Social Distancing and the challenges of 50 different responses to Covid-19

This article paints an interesting picture of how social distancing is actually playing out in the US right now. This article looks at deidentified cell phone GPS data from 15 million users to see how much average travel in regions have decreased with social distancing stay-at-home orders.

The findings are pretty impressive and likely show as much about epidemiology as about politics. The main map associated with this article shows that many cities, especially in the South, have been slower to decreased their travel significantly. Part of this is because shelter-in-home orders have taken longer and are less likely to be in place in the especially in the South-East. This article does a fantastic job of visualizing data between those counties that do have stay-at-home orders vs those that don't compared with the size of the county. Further, this article gives a way to quantitate and visualize how much success to those programs by how much a city's reduction in travel decreased.

I was struck to the King County (where I live) reduction from a pre-C19 distance of 3.8 miles to 61 feet (Washington Strong!). In Daytona Beach, FL it reduced only from 4.4 to 1.9 miles average travel a day. The graphic showing the satellite distance comparison is striking, Residents of Seattle are staying at home. Volusia (home to Daytona Beach) county has 93 cases and 2 deaths reported by the FL state website to date, but given the high number of elderly congregate communities in FL, I wonder if this is a powderkeg waiting to happen?

The sub-optimal nature of 50 different C19 strategies

There are pro's and con's to our Republic model in the US, as there are with any political/governmental systems. I will say that the evidence is overwhelming that Public health, especially at the scale of C19, requires national leadership and coordination. There are two points to this that I want to differentiate strategy and implementation. Standards and strategy, especially for diseases or conditions that don't respect state lines, requires a national coordinated approach. For example, clean water, clean air, food safety and many other rules and regulations are generally set at the Federal level as interstate commerce make local rules less relevant. Epidemics and Pandemics present a unique challenge. The CDC has the experts and analysis that should, in normal times, be apolitical and act to acquire the data, science and expert opinions needed to guide our national approach to diseases like C19. Further, given that we have not seen a disease like this in my lifetime, this knowledge base becomes even more important for a coherent strategy.

Once this strategy and support is developed, it is implemented locally. In the US, this is operationalized at the county level taking into account the unique communities, resources and constraints. During "normal" times, this works to the extent the investment in public health exists locally. Further, the CDC has been invaluable in bringing their Drop Teams in when needed locally for local outbreaks. The national scale for C19 has rapidly outstripped this model, and with 50 different strategies, it is difficult for the Federal Government to put together a cohesive strategy. The limitations of the US national strategic reserve for medical supplies has also hampered our ability to plan and work at the nationally and local levels.

When we look at countries who have successfully "bent the curve," I suggest that coordination is the key, both for early recognition of a crisis (one failure in the US due to testing limitations) as well as a coordinated response. See an article I posted about Taiwan's response a few weeks ago. A WHO podcast I recently listened to pointed out that when the US still had less than 10,000 known cases, we still could have done contact tracings. How did the speaker know? He had done over 14,000 contact tracing for Ebola in the DRC in a war zone with far fewer resources. Where there is the will and a strategy, there is a way.

I see hope with Anthony Fauci, if allowed to drive the national strategy, will continue to use his expertise to guide the C19 task force and have a more coherent strategy to avoid the worst case outcomes some modelling have suggested. We need to do what we can locally and continue to encourage our leaders to heed the advice of experts like Anthony Fauci in this fight for our most vulnerable members of our society.


Coronavirus Social Distancing