How UC Berkeley is responding to new coronavirus developments

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Anna Harte, medical director of University Health Services, and Marc Fisher, the vice chancellor for administration, sent the following message to the campus community on Thursday, Feb. 27:

There have been a number of new and significant developments regarding the novel coronavirus(COVID-19), consequently we are writing to you today to share the latest information and guidance with you.

At this time, there are no confirmed cases of the virus on campus or in Alameda County. We remain vigilant in our campus prevention and response efforts, which have been underway for months now, and are ready to take prompt and effective action should a case occur here.

Recent developments regarding the virus include the announcement by public health officials this week of a new and troubling confirmed coronavirus case in Solano County; news of notable spread of the disease in more countries; and a warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that Americans should expect to see more cases here including the possibility of the virus spreading in some communities.  To prepare, local officials should review their pandemic plans, and everyone should follow the standard protocols of washing their hands frequently, not touching their face and staying home if sick.

Please keep in mind that while the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, both globally and to the United States, the CDC states that the risk to the general American public, which is unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, is considered low. Still, we realize that this is a difficult time and we encourage the entire campus community to look out for one another.

New case in Solano county

The CDC and public health officials have announced that the new confirmed case in Solano County involves an individual who has not traveled to the impacted countries and has had no known contact with individuals with the virus. The individual is being treated at the UC Davis Medical Center.

Because this case is not connected with travel, it suggests that the virus may now be present in the U.S. community. As a result, public health professionals have today updated protocols for determining the criteria for testing individuals, have bolstered testing capacity at state and local laboratories, and are updating travel and other guidance daily.

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On the Berkeley campus, we are proactively engaged in pandemic planning in collaboration with our public health partners: this includes everything from intentional use and preservation of essential medical supplies and staffing resources, to enhancing protocols and coordinating efforts to isolate sick and quarantine at-risk individuals. This is in addition to ongoing efforts that include campus leaders meeting at least weekly to develop and review plans regarding best practices such as where and how to house individuals if a case occurs; how to ensure we will meet teaching obligations if there are a number of cases on campus; and how to assist and support international students, researchers and other potentially impacted members of our campus community.

Campus officials are also working in coordination with the University of California, Office of the President, which activated its Emergency Operations Center many weeks ago and continues to hold regular conference calls including medical, environmental health and safety, administrative, and emergency management leadership from across the UC system.

Spread of the disease in more countries

There have been a number of news reports of the virus’s growing impact in other countries including Italy and South Korea. UC President Janet Napolitano recently updated her systemwide directive regarding travel to advise the UC community to temporarily avoid all nonessential travel to countries that are designated with a CDC Travel Warning – Level 3 Notice (avoid nonessential travel). Note that the CDC travel warning is distinct from the State Department travel advisories.  The systemwide directive currently includes South Korea as well as China (excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Macau an d Hong Kong).

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We would in addition strongly recommend that everyone carefully review both the CDC website and the State Department website in planning for upcoming personal travel: additional hot spots are likely to emerge and in addition to the risk of exposure while abroad, there is a risk that border controls similar to those currently in place for China may be put in place by the U.S. Government and it could be challenging to return.

The Berkeley campus has a process in place by which members of the campus community may seek exemptions for university-related travel. We also encourage everyone who travels, whether for university business or for personal travel, to register with the campus travel service, which provides additional protections and safety measures.

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Please continue to refer to the University Health Services’ advisory page, which is updated weekly or more frequently when needed.  Significant campus updates will be communicated through Cal Message and other means, as appropriate

And, once again, please continue to take care of yourselves and look out for each other as we work our way through these difficult times.