An Update on the Coronavirus and NYU's Response
Date: January 31, 2020
TO: THE NYU COMMUNITY
FROM: President Andrew Hamilton & Dr. Carlo Ciotoli, MD, Assoc. Vice President for Student Health
The safety and health of NYU's students, faculty, administrators, and staff are the top concern for me and all the University's leadership. The new illness has been a focus of attention across NYU's global network since it first emerged, and we have assembled a team involving multiple University offices and campuses to monitor, plan, and respond. As the new coronavirus-based illness that originated in Wuhan, China continues to spread, we want to update you on developments related to NYU globally.
The Coronavirus: Coronaviruses are fairly common viruses in humans. The virus that has emerged in China – 2019-nCoV – is a new one, and doctors and researchers are working to better understand its contagiousness and severity. Generally speaking, outside of China, the spread of the disease has been limited, with no confirmed cases in New York City, for example.
No cases at NYU: So far, there are no cases of NYU community members infected with 2019-nCoV on any of our campuses, including NYU Shanghai.
Information: The Student Health Center has created a webpage with information about the illness and health guidance for the NYU community. It is updated regularly as new developments occur.
Health Issues: Readiness, Preparations, and Actions
Closely Following the Guidance of Health Authorities: Our Student Health Center (SHC) staff has been in frequent direct contact with state and local health departments, has been in touch with other universities’ health operations, and has been closely following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization. We are in line with the most-up-to-date guidance, which involves:
- directly communicating with all the students from affected areas, which we have done several times
- advising them about the symptoms of the illness
- instructing them to go to the Health Center for evaluation and diagnostic testing if they are demonstrating the symptoms.
This is a time of year in which a lot of students are afflicted with respiratory illnesses, which the staff is trained and prepared to handle. Medical staff in our Health Center have heightened their sensitivity to travel histories. And they are also providing guidance to our other campuses and sites.
Travel to China: The US government has issued an advisory against travel to China. In addition, some airlines have announced that they are suspending service to China, while others have reduced the number of flights they are operating. The presumption is that any school, unit, or individual which had been planning academic or other travel to China has cancelled those plans, and the cancellation will remain in place until the guidance changes. For any needed advice or direction, please be in touch with our travel safety group at email@example.com to discuss any proposed trips.
Communications: In addition to communicating directly with the populations most likely to be affected by the emerging virus, we have also sought to keep the broader NYU community up-to-date by: 1) sending University-wide communications, such as this and the earlier one from Dr. Ciotoli, 2) establishing, as we noted earlier, a page with information about the virus, and 3) posting public statements.
NYU Langone: Our medical center is one of the finest in the world, and an important part of the fabric of New York's health system. While there are currently no confirmed cases in the New York City area, NYU Langone is well prepared to handle the 2019-nCoV virus and to be part of the City's health response. This includes establishing a special 2019-nCoV task force; implementing procedures for the identification and treatment of potential patients; ensuring the availability of proper protective equipment; and building awareness and recognition among staff.
Academic Planning and Responses
Spring classes and academic planning: In line with the guidance from health authorities, we have begun spring semester classes in all locations except NYU Shanghai, where municipal authorities have asked all universities to delay spring classes until February 17th (spring classes at NYU Shanghai were already scheduled to start after the Chinese New Year, so there were far fewer people on campus at this point than would customarily be the case).
In response to the coronavirus, our academic planning has centered around two issues: 1) contingency planning for NYU Shanghai, and 2) planning to address academic progress for students who are unable to resume their studies because of travel restrictions.
NYU Shanghai: As we noted, the Shanghai authorities have since directed that universities not start classes until February 17. Given the US government's advisory against travel to China, we will activate the contingency plans on which we had been working. Accordingly, NYU Shanghai will begin its spring term on February 17, with classes meeting remotely using technology and with some NYU Shanghai students enrolling in global sites. The university is in constant contact with health authorities and will look to resume in-person classes as soon as practicable and appropriate.
Students Unable to Travel: We have also been undertaking planning to address the academic progress of students throughout NYU whose travel has been restricted. We have communicated directly with those students who, our records suggest, are most likely to be affected by travel restrictions and asked them to contact us if they cannot travel. In addition, the Provost's Office has communicated with faculty who have students in their classes who may be travel-restricted and provided them with recommendations, techniques, and resources that can allow students to participate in class until travel restrictions are lifted.
The challenges that this illness presents for NYU – keeping our community safe and well, and ensuring the continued education both of NYU Shanghai students and travel-restricted students – are ample. And it is understandable that concerns may accompany a new and unfamiliar communicable illness.
However, we are convinced that NYU's considerable strengths – the capabilities of our global network, the courage and determination of our community, the professionalism of our health staff, our technological resources, and our commitment to our students' academic progress – will enable us to overcome these challenges, and we shall look with some pride on how we came together and were able to handle this test.