Tuesday, March 3, 9 AM

March 3, 2020

Dear A&S Community,

    Good morning. The University update tends to come out in the afternoon, so there is no official update from the university yet today but here again is the university web site(which includes links to county, state, national and world health organizations): www.seattleu.edu/coronavirus/  Seattle U does push their updates out via email as well as posting them on the web.

    All university classes and events remain open. We expect a more comprehensive planning update from the university either Wednesday or Thursday. In the meantime I refer you to the hygiene points of washing hands, coughing into your elbow when you must, not touching your face and staying home if you’re sick. Public greetings have shifted; if you see me I’ll likely welcome you with an elbow bump or “jazz hands.”  

    While all classes and events remain open and I have NOT heard  of any planned closure, one preparatory step in case you or students have to miss class (that you hopefully will not need) could be to review how you adapted course material for the extended snow break last winter. Take a look at what worked and what didn’t work; if you weren’t here last year, check with a colleague or your chair/director. Again, I understand the university will be putting out more comprehensive information in the next few days.

Several of you thanked me for the update from the epidemiologist Dr. Mike Myint yesterday; here is what he posted this morning if you are interested, he went deeper into context and background today:

Just a quick local update as the Puget Sound in the US epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak and I have to get to work.

There have been 6 deaths locally, mostly driven by the virus infecting a high risk group of elderly patients in a Skilled Nursing Facility here in the region. This has been followed by school closures and patients trying to access good information who have symptoms of upper respiratory infections.

Today I will focus on context.

One of the basic challenges is making sure we take COVID19 in the context of a "flu season". This context is challenging with our English use of terms such as "flu." I don't like that term because it isn't specific. Here are some terms I think people should know to understand to better frame COVID19.

Influenza - a disease caused by a specific Influenza virus, common and affects 3-11% of people in the US every year. The peak is usually February and March in the US. Influenza is still circulating and the best protection is respiratory hygiene which we have been discussing, social distancing, vaccination, and treatment of severe disease with antivirals. The presence of vaccines as well as effective anti-influenza medications differentiate this currently from COVID19. Note that I strongly recommended to get the influenza vaccine this year if you haven't yet. The last influenza season (18/19) an estimated 34,000 people died in the US from influenza. in the US. The mortality of the H1N1 influenza season was approximately 0.01%.

Viral Upper Respiratory infections (URI) aka the common cold, Influenza like illness (this is where sometimes colloquially we refer to as people having the "flu" which is why I don't like the term) - Note the many non-COVID19 coronaviruses fall into this family of syndromes. There are many causes in addition, usually viral. During the winter months (also called "flu season") I have seen estimates of 20% of the population at any one time has symptoms of runny nose, cough, possibly fever, headache etc. Most of which are mild and self limited.

The challenge with March of 2020 and COVID19 is that we are in this time period often called "flu season". COVID19 is likely more virulent than it's other URI cousins which means the illness and death rate is higher. Current estimates, which are likely high due to sampling bias indicate about a 1% mortality rate for COVID19. When I say sampling bias, it is because of limited testing, we are only testing the sickest people who come into healthcare settings. Recall that 80% of COVID19 patients seem to have the mild symptoms more like a URI.

This confluence of the current influenza season, viral URIs and COVID19 create a situation where it is difficult to differentiate. This is the cause of some of the anxiety that people have. Is that runny nose COVID19? Public health is working very hard to try and answer the question of how much is circulating. Honestly, we don't currently know, but we have to be ready for this to be the "new normal" where COVID19, like influenza, are viruses in our community.

On one hand, many here in the US go year to year as a society living with influenza and the deaths associated without batting an eyelash or raiding Costco. This IS different, but how much different I suspect won't be as much as we think if we take the basic precautions we have been emphasizing.

1. Wash or sanitize your hands, cover your cough, don't touch public items and then touch your face. Above all stay calm!
2. Do things to stay healthy, eat, sleep and exercise.
3. Stay home when sick and call before you think about coming into healthcare clinics/hospitals as the best course may be to stay home, rest, hydrate and treat symptoms with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
4. Social distance as requested by public health

Sound familiar? Simple, not easy.
MM 03-03-2020




David V. Powers, Ph.D. | Dean