Good morning everyone, it’s the last day of the first week of Spring Quarter, thanks for everything you’re doing.
Yesterday’s University-wide COVID-19 update has several significant items in it. Take a look, it came out via email at 7:08 and is also posted here. More details on when to report COVID-19 exposure, moving Commencement to October, moving undergraduate summer courses to all-online, extension of COVID-19 paid leave for staff, and a note explain Seattle U is following CDC guidance in how they report cases.
The University has moved to test-optional admissions at the undergraduate level and is headed in that direction at the graduate level. The news about the undergraduate change came out in an email from the Provost at 11:31 on Tuesday morning, following approval from Academic Assembly. We are working on a similar approach to graduate programs.
More detailed guidance was sent to chairs about the CR/F option. It helps clarify some issues as we set our college guidelines in the coming week, so students can decide which classes they would like to have as CR/F options from Winter Quarter. As you discuss these issues in your department, keep in mind the idea is to support students whose performance will be affected by the circumstances around them in a variety of ways we will not be able to fully understand or know. We have shifted faculty evaluation processes over the current time period for the same reasons, providing the options of extra time toward tenure and not considering student course evaluations in reviews, for example.
Students see and appreciate the work we are doing, you are making a difference for them. Here’s a note from a student to one of our faculty members:
“Thanks for being understanding, the amount of support I've already gotten from the entire SU community has been unexpected (in a good, reassuring way) and very helpful.”
Easter Break is tomorrow through Monday. In the Catholic and broader Christian tradition, this weekend is about transformational resurrection. Many other traditions around the world celebrate spring and the vibrancy of rebirth around this time. I’m glad we all have some time right now, maybe to celebrate as you’re ready or perhaps simply to take in what we have here and now that is good, finding joy in new places.
I’ll be back with the update on Tuesday, take care of yourselves and take time for yourselves and those close to you.
COMMUNITY UPDATES – how about some good news?
Those of you who are fans of The Office or the new Jack Ryan series know John Kraskinski. He has started a weekly YouTube posting called “Some Good News”
Here’s the second episode. (Editorial note from Karen Bystrom: you will need Kleenex at the end.)
Mike Myint Update – He notes “how long good science takes”. Ultimately, it will be broad application of an effective vaccine that wins the day.
Technical vs adaptive changes
One important difference between this pandemic and other epidemics is the combination of rapid social media (especially Twitter and like applications), 24 hour news cycles and immediate access to the world's literature. I believe netted out, this is a good thing, but in a pandemic, especially when mixed with understandable anxiety and fear, it becomes difficult to separate fact from hypothesis.
Further, evidence of effective interventions, aka public health may not be particularly headline grabbing. The main finding, so far, is that basic epidemiology works - physical distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, and separating ill and healthy, especially for at risk populations, saves lives. The rapid news cycle scans the world for a headline grabbing magic bullet or "game changer" which belies the reality of a how long good science takes. Covid-19 (C19) more about societal adaptive change in this early and middle period, vs a technical change, which will come with safe effective medications and vaccines.
This article (The Science of This Pandemic Is Moving at Dangerous Speed) talks about the challenges of moving quickly. Given the novel nature of this virus, much has to be extrapolated from what we have known about Coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS, but even amongst Coronaviruses these diseases are quite different in their spread and presentation. Therefore we have to learn quickly from the world's experience, but much is transmitted in the form of anecdote with papers reflecting the opinions and hypotheses of mostly well-meaning clinicians and scientists. At the same time, integrating all of this information is challenging without the rigor of a more formal studies. This applies to both positive and negative studies being published. Scientists and clinicians are people first and professionals second. Therefore we are subject to biases like any other, and think about how this has affected some parts of our societies views on vaccines. For Covid-19 if a small but significant part of our society doesn't take advantage of a safe and effective vaccine when it is developed, they will continue to put vulnerable contacts at risk.
This article frames this problem nicely and I agree that we will make inferences that turn out to be wrong. Taking the same set of data about transmission, the National Academies of Medicine and World Health Organization came to differing conclusions, though both acknowledge that the data needed to come to a conclusion are incomplete.
We will have to enter this with a sense of humility in our ability to ingest the rapidly changing literature. Tapping the expertise of teams of experts and sharing best practices has been a particularly heartening aspect. I am on a list-serve with my colleagues on a regular basis and I learn from them every day. We also have to be honest with our patients and our caregivers on what we know and what we don't and help in shared decision making to achieve the best outcomes and safest care we can in this time of great and rapid ambiguity.