Tuesday, March 10, 7 AM

March 10, 2020

Good morning everyone,

There are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the campus community. University updates continue to be provided at www.seattleu.edu/coronavirus/ . A notable recent university-wide update was related to student employees, sent out yesterday afternoon at 2:00 pm. 

I hope the first day of fully online presentation went as well as could be expected. The first point I want to make today is about ensuring that social distancing does not result in social isolation for members of our community. Some students are returning home to be with their families, others (particularly international students) don't have that option. Take some time to check in with the students in your classroom, your advisees and each other to ask how people are doing and where they are. Consider emailing a little more with students/faculty/staff you would usually see in person more often than you will the next few weeks. Stay connected to the community in ways you can. 

The second point is about planning for the range of potential situations we may face over the coming few months. Mike Myint's post today speaks to planning and coordination (with a note on university responses; fyi Fordham and Princeton moved to fully online yesterday).  There has not yet been any change to our March 30th date for returning to in-person courses but the university is beginning to plan for how we would manage a longer all-online period than we have currently scheduled, with early planning for what might occur beyond what seems most likely (or what we would most like). At this point it seems the "far end" of the impact of this outbreak in various ways could be through the spring quarter. Again, the current plan remains to reopen in-person classes at the beginning of spring quarter. At the same time, considering how to plan for some measure of disruption through the spring quarter seems most likely to cover the bases of what could happen. If you are in communication with colleagues in Albers you may have heard they are making plans for how they might offer the entire spring quarter online if it comes to that. The university, working more all the time on its long-term planning, has asked all colleges to consider how they might do that. I have asked department chairs to start thinking about what it would take for us to be likewise prepared, not because we expect to be in that situation, but because looking that far ahead feels like it would cover any situation that we might face in that time period. 

Here is Dr. Mike Myint's post for today:

Plan - Do - Study - Act.

There are common key themes from countries that have, for now, been able to blunt the curve. Since the time of John Snow and the London Cholera Epidemic, they all modernize tenets of basic infection prevention. A coordinated national/regional response, rapid testing of patients, places to care for both moderately ill and severely ill individuals, and medical social distancing (virtual). Free testing and a clear plan for different stages of illness is also the key. China, Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong were affected early, but Italy, Iran are surging. in the US, testing limitations still limit our ability to understand the full extent of the outbreak here. This is not a consequence of authoritarian vs free societies in my opinion. It is a question of political will.

Our current (but addressable) gaps
1. Better national and regional coordination - We have the opportunity to do better, but we need places to place patients with moderate, severe and convalescing diseases. Community testing pathways that don't put all the burden on an already burdened healthcare system to do public health. For example, after the Life Care Center SNF outbreak, nursing homes are scared to take patients from the hospital. This causes patients who don't need hospital beds to continue to use a bed that could take care of another ill patient.

2. Wider availability and "free" testing - Gov Inslee waived co-pays for testing, which is a good start, but until we can get to broader availability of testing, we will not know the full extent of the outbreak, nor be able to address it. Just testing isn't good enough, we need protocols for mildly ill, and places for moderate and severely ill individuals.

3. Coordinate the US overall response. University, school closures, public event cancellations, cruise ships. All of these, in many ways are inter-linked. Note that university closures/virtual have the possible effect of sending students home to multiple locations before we have established local control. There are reasons to close campuses and social distance, but without clear coordinated guidance, the potential unintended consequences may not be fully accounted for.

4. Release of national stockpiles early on and increase manufacturing of PPE in the medium term to address "hot spots." Hospitals are struggling in affected areas to get the basic supplies we need to care for our patients. Our national healthcare system sometimes act like a variety of "tribes" with the effect being the tragedy of the commons, where supplies are misallocated due to a lack of clarity on common good and community need based distribution. Organizations that have "excess" supplies need to know that if contributed to the common good now, a coordinated system would have their backs when they need it.

Time is of the essence to coordinate at all levels of government. We can learn from the interventions of countries that "bent" the epidemic curve. We just need the political and social will to do this together.




David V. Powers, Ph.D.

Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

Seattle University