March 9, 2020
Dear AU Community,
The COVID-19 situation continues to change rapidly every day and we want to provide you with information that can address your questions and help you manage the many different aspects of this public health matter. Importantly, as of now, university operations continue as normal. All administrative functions are proceeding while students are on spring break. Washington College of Law (WCL) classes continue this week and will be on break the week of March 16.
Please visit the university’s COVID-19 Resources page – www.american.edu/coronavirus – for the latest information. We are sending updates to the community every Monday to recap recent developments, provide any new guidance or information about COVID-19, and communicate the status of operations at the university. Should immediate updates on new information be needed, we will send additional communications via email, social media, and other channels. You should also monitor updates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the DC Department of Health.
The university is continuing its comprehensive planning by evaluating all options to maintain our core functions - specifically, educational activity for our students and our research work, including labs. This includes preparing measures where classes and instruction could be conducted through other means, including online platforms, if that becomes necessary due to further public health developments or guidance from national and local health authorities. We are looking at all aspects of our educational services to ensure that our students can continue their studies, any financial impacts to them are limited, and support services including mental health and academic advising remain available. While there are many discussions and preparations going on now, as of today there is no change to our operating status. If that changes, we will immediately update the community.
We are working to stay ahead of the changing conditions related to COVID-19 and manage any situation that arises. Our goal is to continue our services and operations in the safest and least disruptive way for our community. This includes engaging with our faculty and staff to plan for working arrangements that provide the appropriate flexibility and support, while maintaining continuity of operations. Human Resources sent a message to faculty and staff on Friday with updates on leave policy, office contingency planning, and university operating status, as well as reminders to take preventative health measures, including staying home if you are feeling sick.
We continue to identify and prepare all our essential services. Leaders of our schools, colleges, and administrative departments are working with faculty and staff on these issues and will be providing additional information within each organization. While the CDC and DC Department of Health have not advised restricting large gatherings or events, we are exploring measures that could be needed in the coming days to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in our community. This includes using conference calls and video conferencing where possible.
Key developments from last week include:
- On March 7, both the District of Columbia and the state of Virginia confirmed their first cases of COVID-19. In DC, a man in his 50s, who was later confirmed to be a reverend at a Georgetown church, tested positive and is currently being treated at a hospital. In Virginia, cases are at Fort Belvoir and in the city of Fairfax. In Maryland, three cases were previously confirmed in Montgomery County and two additional cases were confirmed in the state on Sunday. The university is monitoring these cases very closely and working with the DC Department of Health. As of Monday morning, the DC government has not yet declared a state of emergency, though that could change. Mayor Muriel Bowser recommended that residents continue to practice good health hygiene and take preventative measures. There is no updated health guidance to change operations as a result of these confirmed cases.
- On March 5, AU suspended all university-sponsored international travel. The ongoing COVID-19 situation in many parts of the world requires us to take steps to safeguard our students, faculty, and staff. There are many uncertainties regarding possible flight cancelations and changes to airline operations, international border closures, and restrictions/quarantines related to COVID-19 in other countries. The decision was made to help members of our community avoid potentially unsafe conditions. This travel suspension includes Alternative Break trips and individual and group travel outside the United States. AU students who are currently abroad on academic year or semester long programs in countries that have Level 2 or below travel advisories from the CDC remain in place at this time. There is no suspension of domestic travel at this time, but we recommend that all community members carefully consider the need for travel, the conditions at your destination, and the potential disruptions that could occur as situations change in the coming days.
We know many students remain on campus during spring break. There will be efforts sponsored by the Office of Campus Life, the Residence Hall Association, and others to continue supporting our community. Further information will be available in the residence halls this week.
As our community faces this challenging time, thank you for coming together and supporting one another. This virus (and any health condition) is no cause for discrimination or stigma. We must avoid the spread of misinformation about COVID-19. While the virus originated from Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, it has spread to more than 80 countries and does not have any connection to race, gender, nationality, or ethnicity. We are supporting members of our community who may be affected by the situation in the U.S. and in other countries, knowing that many fellow Eagles have family and friends in areas experiencing widespread COVID-19 cases. Students, faculty, and staff who are from or have recently traveled to affected countries such as China, South Korea, Italy, Japan, Iran, and many others should not be viewed any differently. We are an inclusive, welcoming community and now is the time to live our values in all our interactions.
You can also prepare for any potential disruptions by staying informed. Be sure your information is up to date for the AU Alerts text message system. Read about AU’s overall approach to emergency readiness on the Emergency Preparedness webpage.
If you have questions, please consult the COVID-19 resources page and contact the offices listed on that website. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff and we thank you for your support as our community responds to this ongoing and changing situation.
Vice President of Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence
Daniel J. Myers
Provost and Chief Academic Officer