COVID-19 Update: March 11, 2020

March 11, 2020

Dear Saint Mary’s Community,

I am following up on previous messages about support for Saint Mary’s students and the well-being of the community during this anxious time. Fortunately, at this time, the College has no confirmed cases of COVID-19. Even so, it is clear that in order to continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among students, staff, and faculty, we must take additional measures, including promoting social distancing on the campus, which is part of the evolving recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California Department of Public Health, and Contra Costa County Public Health Department. This special update offers further guidance on SMC’s collective response to the spread of the Novel Coronavirus in Contra Costa County and the Bay Area.

There has been no recommendation by health officials to suspend campus operations or cancel any classes; however, the situation is fluid. As a result, we encourage faculty who are ready and able to move to alternative instruction methods to do so right away. Everyone who is actively teaching this term should be prepared to move to alternate means of instruction by Monday, March 16.

We are regularly assessing the specific situation on our campus in close collaboration with the Contra Costa Public Health Department in order to make informed decisions about academic continuity. We will notify the campus immediately should we determine that it is necessary to suspend in-person instruction.

As the Provost noted in her email last Thursday, Saint Mary’s has developed an Academic Resiliency Checklist that provides contact information for assistance, a list of technical requirements for accessing courses online, and guidance and links for using Moodle to contact your students, post course materials, conduct synchronous online class sessions, and access Zoom conferencing.

Additional guidance and resources regarding alternate modes of instruction will be sent out from the Provost’s Office.

Public health agencies have recommended the suspension of all public events with more than 50 attendees. Please postpone or cancel all such events scheduled between now and April 14, 2020.  The residence halls remain open and students are encouraged to limit physical contact and continue healthy practices to reduce the spread of illness (handwashing, refraining from crowds during this time, covering mouth during a sneeze/cough with a tissue or elbow). Should it become necessary, we will be modifying food service to promote social distancing. Residential students may choose to return to their homes if their courses are offered through remote methods and this would be more comfortable for their circumstances. Lastly, more information will be made available as these plans are confirmed.

Saint Mary’s has suspended all future College-sponsored international travel and study abroad programs through June 15, 2020. This suspension includes international study abroad programs and travel that is related to teaching, research or grant activity, internships, conferences and presentations, and performances. At this point, all such domestic programs are currently moving forward as planned. Students, faculty, and staff who are already abroad on College-sponsored travel are not being asked to return at this time unless they are in countries that are designated by the CDC as “Level 3 – Avoid Nonessential Travel” due to coronavirus. 

The College is not restricting essential College-sponsored domestic travel but asks that anyone traveling domestically register through Terra Dotta. If a new COVID-19 outbreak occurs in a place where our community members have been traveling, having this confidential information will help our public health team take effective action. If you are unfamiliar with Terra Dotta, the staff at the Center for International Programs can provide additional information on this program. For more information about College-sponsored travel, please see the International Travel Update page.

It is also important to note that in the event of suspension of face-to-face class instruction, the College will remain open for mission-critical business and residence halls will remain open. Supervisors and managers are encouraged to consider opportunities for employees to request alternate work situations where possible, especially to reduce health risk if they are in a vulnerable category. Please consult with the HR department directly if you have any questions.  See FAQ - Work from Off-Campus for assistance with remotely working with technology. 

The College’s COVID-19 Response Team meets daily to review the most recent information from our local public health department, the California Public Health Department and guidance from the CDC in the changing coronavirus situation. At the forefront of the College’s actions is the health and safety of the campus community and the academic progress and success of our students. We deeply appreciate your cooperation and patience as we work to support both of these outcomes.

With appreciation,

Jane Camarillo, Ph.D.
COVID-19 Response Team