Date: January 24, 2020
To: THE NYU COMMUNITY
From: Carlo Ciotoli, MD, Associate Vice President for Student Health and Executive Director of the Student Health Center
Re: The Emergence of the Novel Coronavirus

No doubt many of you will have heard by now of a respiratory illness – the Novel Coronavirus, 2019-nCoV – that first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has since spread. Your well-being is the top priority for the Student Health Center and the University. I have just finished participating in a conference call for health care providers organized by the State Health Department, and I’d like to share with you some background, and some information about steps we are taking.

Background

The 2019-nCoV is a coronavirus strain that has not previously been found in humans. This coronavirus can lead to fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Most of those infected have reported exposure to a large seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, but there is also evidence of human-to-human transmission, though the ease of human-to-human transmission has not yet been fully clarified. Several hundred cases have been confirmed, mostly in the Wuhan, China area, but elsewhere too, including among people who have traveled internationally from China. There have been a relatively small number of deaths reported as well; these more severe cases seem to have occurred among the elderly, among those with underlying illnesses, or both.

Steps We Are Taking

At the Health Center: Respiratory illnesses are common at this time of year; the Student Health Center has well-established protocols for dealing with communicable illnesses, and there will be a heightened emphasis on determining travel histories for those presenting with respiratory illnesses. So far there have been no cases of 2019-nCov among the NYU community. We have been and continue to be in touch with health authorities, paying particular attention to any guidance related to college communities.

Outreach: The steps we have taken so far are consistent with the recommendations of health authorities: we have been in touch with the relevant groups of students, asked them to monitor themselves for the symptoms associated with the Novel Coronavirus, and asked that they connect with the University's health resources if they are exhibiting any symptoms.

Working with other offices, we have put an emphasis on communicating with segments of the NYU community that may be affected in one way or another. For example:

  • We have communicated with those students who, according to our records, are from the Wuhan region and the other affected areas. We have provided them with information about the symptoms, how to access NYU health services, and other related information. In addition, we have advised them on whom to contact if travel restrictions imposed on Wuhan residents prevent them from being able to return to campus for the start of the spring semester.
  • We have advised all the students at NYU Shanghai -- many of whom customarily travel in China or elsewhere in Asia during the Chinese New Year period -- to avoid travel to the Wuhan area; that advice should also apply to others in the NYU community thinking about traveling to China. We have also provided them with information about the symptoms of 2019-nCoV, how to access health services, and other related information.
  • We have communicated with all the students who were studying at NYU Shanghai during J-term (January Term), providing them with information about the symptoms of 2019-nCoV, how to access health services, and other related information.
  • We have also posted information about 2019-nCoV on the Student Health Center site. We will continue to update the site as important new information or developments emerge.

Classes, Activities, and Operations

With the exception of NYU Shanghai, all classes, activities, operations, and events are expected to go forward as scheduled at all NYU sites and locations. This is consistent with the advice of health authorities.

In Shanghai, municipal authorities have asked universities to put new public health protocols in place, including temperature screening. The coming Chinese New Year makes it difficult to get the necessary work finished by the scheduled start of classes at NYU Shanghai, so they will delay the start of spring semester by one week to February 10.

Conclusion

I know news reporting about emerging illnesses can be upsetting; I would like to urge you to be calm. Health authorities throughout the world are focused on this illness, and our University has highly professional, trained medical staff that is closely following developments, is working closely with other University offices to make well informed decisions, and is committed to protecting the health of the NYU community.

If you do have any health-related questions, you can call the Student Health Center at 212.443.1000.