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Friday, September 25, 2020
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Update on COVID-19 Preparedness

Dear members of the Emerson community:

As we prepare to welcome students and faculty back to campus following the spring break, the College is actively preparing to ensure the safety and health of our community amid the changing status of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) in our region and around the world. As a global, borderless campus, our College faces significant challenges posed by the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, the Emerson community is innovative, nimble, creative, and caring—and these qualities give us strength in the face of this virus and its unknowns.

Members of our staff have communicated directly with many students, parents, faculty, staff, and community members, and this message is intended to keep the wider community informed of our plans and actions. As we have shared previously, the College continues to track developments associated with COVID-19, and our staff have participated in frequent meetings with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and other state and local agencies to discuss and plan for the potential spread of the virus. Emerson currently reports no cases of COVID-19 among our community, and according to MDPH, the risk of infection to Massachusetts/Boston area residents remains low. While Los Angeles County officials have declared a local public health emergency regarding the coronavirus on Wednesday 4 March, they stressed that they were acting out of “an abundance of caution” and not panic.

Emerson has already taken a number of steps to prepare for and respond to the possible spread of the virus. These actions include: suspending our academic program in Kasteel Well and returning students to the Boston campus; advising faculty and students to avoid or suspend travel to areas where the virus has spread; and convening an executive level policy and emergency response team to prepare for any disruptions the coronavirus may pose to our campus.

We are taking additional actions, outlined below, to strengthen our preparedness:

1. Emerson College is actively assessing the status of our summer study abroad programs based on Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s request to Boston-area colleges to consider canceling those programs.

2. Emerson has initiated preparations to ensure that the College is equipped for academic and operational continuity in the event that we are required to suspend residential operations for some period of time prior to the end of the spring semester.

3. Administrative offices are reviewing and updating business continuity plans to ensure the continuation of the College’s critical functions and operations with minimal interruption.

4. At the conclusion of Spring Break, staff will begin discussions with international students currently on campus who may be unable or unwilling to return to their homes during summer break due to the spread of the virus.

With regard to the return of students from Kasteel Well: The majority of those students are scheduled to return to the Boston campus Friday on a direct flight to Boston’s Logan Airport. There is no current travel restriction to or from the Netherlands, and no additional screening is expected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other health officials at the airport. Additionally, no students who are part of the Kasteel Well cohort have travelled to areas of high concern in other parts of Europe in the last three weeks. As a precaution, students will be asked to monitor their health, check their temperature twice per day, and report any signs of illness for two weeks following their return to campus as requested by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

All members of the campus community are encouraged to exercise good health practices. Students should call the Center for Health and Wellness at 617-824-8666, and faculty and staff should immediately contact their primary health care provider if they develop symptoms of a respiratory illness, including fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

Equally important, we ask members of our community to review the CDC anti-stigma guidelines issued recently regarding coronavirus. The CDC advises that we collectively focus on the disease that is causing the problem and avoid casting blame on individuals, cultures, or nationalities.

As always, we will continue to communicate action we are taking, while also advising on new guidance issued by the CDC and other key agencies. Emerson will continue to keep the community updated on its plans and actions at the following webpage: emerson.edu/coronavirus

Individuals who have specific concerns are encouraged to contact the appropriate offices:

·       Students: Office of Campus Life: 617-824-8640, deanofcampuslife@emerson.edu, Jim Hoppe

·       Faculty: Office of the Provost: 617-824-8265, michaele_whelan@emerson.edu, Michaele Whelan

·       Staff: Office of Human Resources: 617-824-8580, hr@emerson.edu, HR Service Center

Sincerely,

Lee Pelton

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