Important Campus Update re. Coronavirus (COVID-19)

March 8, 2020
Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox and Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Thomas M. Smith
March 8, 2020

Dear Campus Community:

Since our last message to campus, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has increased significantly across the United States and globally. 

Late yesterday (Saturday, March 7th), Riverside County confirmed its first case of COVID-19. To our knowledge, this person is not affiliated with the UC Riverside campus. We further expect that the number of confirmed cases will continue to increase with more widespread testing.

We understand that current circumstances regarding COVID-19 may lead to worry, concern, and anxiety, especially for those who have family in impacted regions or who are in higher-risk populations. We further acknowledge the uncertainty and concern that this virus and its consequences have created for so many in our community. Though there are no confirmed cases of the virus here on our campus or in the city of Riverside, the first infection could very well happen on or near campus at any time. We want to be as prepared as possible so we can move quickly should we need to.

Campus Status

The campus continues to remain open and operational. We are fortunate that no confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported at UC Riverside, but we continue to watch the global and regional situation carefully as we assess the local impact. After careful review of our local situation and following consultation with health professionals, we have assessed that the risk of transmission associated with classroom instruction remains low for our campus.

We will continue to monitor and assess the risk, but at the present time, there is no reason for us to suspend ordinary instructional activity. In-person classroom meetings will be under normal operation for the week of March 9th, but this could change as the week progresses.

We are aware that due to their distinct local circumstances, a small number of other universities have suspended normal in-person classroom meetings. Rest assured: we are prepared to do the same should our situation change. We are consulting on a daily basis with the California Department of Public Health, Riverside County officials, university health officials, and UC Office of the President.

To ensure that we are fully prepared, we are calling on all members of our community to take steps now to prepare for the possibility that we may need to shift to working, teaching, and learning remotely and virtually in the near future. 

Last week, the Provost’s Office communicated a memo asking that all faculty and instructors consider, on a voluntary basis, adjusting their practices for the remaining two weeks of the quarter in order to facilitate social distancing and accommodate students who cannot attend in-person classes or take in-person finals. Tomorrow, the Provost’s Office will meet with the Academic Senate’s Executive Council to further review senate policies affecting possible changes to course instruction, assignments, exams, grading, and syllabi.

The website provides a toolkit and resources to ensure academic continuity, in case of emergency campus closures or other disruptions that prevent instructors and students from meeting face to face. Accordingly, if the facts justify additional restrictive steps, we will be prepared to act quickly to adjust our practices to better protect the health of our community, including suspending in-person classroom meetings.

While we are not suspending in-person classroom meetings at this time, we understand the value of increased social distancing as a way of preventing the transmission of the virus; see this link from the San Francisco Department of Public Health for details.

Staff supervisors and managers are asked to assess whether their employees could work remotely, as their individual circumstances warrant and institutional conditions evolve. With these preparations in place, we will be able to scale up measures quickly and broadly across campus, if or when needed.

No decisions have been made yet to cancel or postpone large gatherings such as concerts, sporting events, conventions, or large community events; however, this remains a possibility. As such, organizers should exercise key prevention strategies in your event’s operation plan.

We also advise all campus units to review carefully any visitors coming to campus, including contractors, to help assure they are in good health and have not recently been in any high risk location, domestically or internationally.  Hiring managers might also consider moving on-campus interviews with job candidates to online.

Should UC Riverside need to move to hybrid or fully online campus operations, on-campus housing and dining services will remain open. Plans for managing confirmed cases among on-campus residents have been developed and will be implemented in consultation with local public health officials, should it become necessary.

This situation is fluid, and it could change quickly in the Riverside community, requiring that we alter course at a moment’s notice. We encourage you to stay up to date with the latest information on UCR’s COVID-19 website or the UC Office of the President’s COVID-19 website. We will continue to send frequent updates to the campus as circumstances change.

Travel Considerations

Last Friday, UCR issued updated travel policy and guidance, and further restrictions are anticipated as additional cases of COVID-19 are confirmed. Additionally, students, faculty, and staff should consider seriously whether personal travel is necessary at this time.

Please consider the potential for additional countries to be added to the restricted travel list, which could result in difficulties getting back into the US. Travelers should be prepared or arrange for off-campus accommodations to self-quarantine for 14 days upon your return from a restricted jurisdiction or if you are exposed to an individual suspected positive for COVID-19.

Your Health and Wellness

Finally, and most importantly, your health and wellness are of utmost importance. It is crucial for all members of the UCR community to carefully follow the recommendations for preventative care, which have the greatest likelihood of protecting ourselves as well as the larger community by diminishing the chances of transmission of the virus:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds, or, as an alternative, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Stay home if you are sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash, and wash your hands.

In addition, practice healthy habits: get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food. If you have not received your annual flu shot, please schedule one with your provider to help protect yourself against the seasonal flu.

Thank you for doing your part to protect our community. Please continue to look out for each other and to show kindness and support to all members of our campus community. Students, please share this message with your family and any other concerned parties.