There are currently no identified cases of COVID-19 in the RU community. There are a small number of confirmed cases in the New York City area and this number is expected to increase.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to consider the immediate health risk from SARS-CoV-2 to the general American public, including the residents of the New York City area, to be low.
Health authorities throughout the world are focused on this illness and University leadership is closely following developments, working closely with appropriate University departments to make well informed decisions, and are committed to protecting the health of the RU community.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses such as the common cold, and more severe illnesses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Coronaviruses commonly circulate in animals and sometimes also infect humans. This novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is a strain thought to originate in animals that was not previously found in humans. The CDC (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and WHO (World Health Organization) are closely monitoring the cases of this infection for this reason. The disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 is named COVID-19.
People with COVID-19 can display a range of symptoms, such as fever, chills and muscle aches, as well as respiratory symptoms like runny nose, congestion, shortness of breath and cough. The severity of the illness can vary. Some people recover in a few days, and others, especially people with underlying medical conditions, can have life-threatening illness. The symptoms of COVID-19 can be very similar to influenza symptoms, and flu is currently widespread in New York. There are specific tests that can determine whether an infection is caused by SARS-CoV-2, influenza, or another virus. There is no vaccine available and no specific therapy to treat an infection. Consequently, it is imperative to prevent the spread of the virus.
COVID-19 can be transmitted from a person who has the infection through respiratory particles, saliva or fecal contamination. There is evidence that the virus may be transmitted by people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2, but are not yet themselves ill. The incubation period – the time between exposure to the virus and when illness begins – is thought to typically be about 6 days, but can be as long as 14 days. The virus is considered to be relatively contagious, moreso than the seasonal influenza virus.
The best way to avoid acquiring infection is frequent hand-washing with soap and water and avoiding close interaction with people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have an undiagnosed respiratory illness.
- The University has canceled events open to the public that are not mission critical and has set new limits on the size and types of on-campus events that are allowed until April 30, 2020.
- The University is restricting access to campus to RU employees and approved visitors.
- We follow the guidance of the New York State and New York City Departments of Health, the CDC, and the WHO regarding screening and prevention.
- We are providing information and updates about COVID-19 to our community.
- We have increased the frequency of routine environmental cleaning and implemented regular surface cleaning of frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and elevator buttons.
- We are encouraging the practice of frequent handwashing and have increased the availability of alcohol-based hand sanitizers on campus.
- We are ensuring that we have adequate inventory of materials and items needed for normal operations as well as for response actions that RU essential personnel may have to undertake.
- We have prohibited business travel to certain areas of concern and are encouraging members of our community to avoid travel to areas of outbreak. And we have implemented a self-monitoring program for members of our community who have traveled within areas of concern within the last two weeks.
- We have prohibited communal food and receptions for on-campus events to encourage social distancing and reduce the risk of infection from shared foods. We have increased the availability of “grab and go” options, and have suspended prepared food buffet and salad bars from the University’s food service venues.
- We have reactivated the ridesharing app to encourage carpooling and help facilitate social distancing.
- We are revising the University’s pandemic preparedness plan in response to the current situation with SARS-CoV-2 and implementing appropriate preparedness and response actions. While we do not, at this time, expect that it will become necessary to significantly limit University activities and operations, the pandemic preparedness plan does have contingencies for those conditions.
- We strongly discourage all non-essential travel at this time. Specific instructions regarding business and personal travel is provided below:
- The University is banning nonessential business travel to countries for which the CDC has issued a Warning Level 3 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- The University also strongly advises all members of our community to avoid personal travel to any Warning Level 3 country.
The University also strongly encourages all members of our community to postpone or cancel nonessential travel, whether business or personal, to Warning Level 2 countries. At this time, the CDC lists Japan at Level 2 but additional countries are likely to be added at this level as well.
The University also strongly advised against travel to and participation in person at conferences or other events involving more than 100 people, regardless of where the event is occurring.
- If you have been in China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, Japan or other country for which the CDC has issued a Level 2 or higher travel warning during the past two weeks OR if you have had contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19 AND you develop a fever or sore throat or respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath):
- Do not come to work.
- Stay at home and call your primary care provider for specific advice. If you do not have a primary care provider, call Rockefeller University Occupational Health Services at (212) 327-8414.
- If your symptoms are severe, or you cannot connect with a health care provider, you should seek medical evaluation at the closest Emergency Room. Try to call ahead and tell them about your travel and symptoms in advance. The telephone number for New York-Presbyterian / Weill Cornell Medical Center is: (212) 746-5454.
- If you, or someone you have been in contact with, has been in China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, Japan or other country for which the CDC has issued a Level 2 or higher warming during the past two weeks:
- Complete the University’s on-line Travel Questionnaire.
- If you meet criteria, you may be instructed not to come to work and advised to self-monitor your temperature and symptoms at home for up to 14 days.
There is still much that is unknown about this virus. However, the prevention steps recommended during cold and flu season are helpful in reducing the risk for infections:
- Wash your hands often using soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you’ve touched someone who is sick. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid close contact with people who are experiencing symptoms.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- If you have cold and cough symptoms, make sure to cover your coughs and sneezes by using the bend of your arm (elbow) or use disposable tissues and immediately throw them in the trash.
- Stay home if you are ill and contact your healthcare provider.
- Receive a flu shot to prevent influenza if you have not already done so.
We recognize that events like these can cause anxiety and emotional strain. If you would like to speak with a counselor or a mental health professional, or have any questions, please contact OHS at (212) 327-8414.
The (OSPA) is reviewing questions relating to the allowability of costs associated with any disruptions to sponsored projects stemming from the coronavirus. Current information and guidance will be posted to the OSPA website.
- Send questions to your Sponsored Program Officer.
- In order for a cost to be allowable, it will require consistent treatment across all funding sources.
- The federal funding agencies are working on a unified message in this regard. Once it is published, OSPA will share it with the RU community.
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