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An update on the coronavirus (COVID-19) for Cal Parents

Dear Cal Parents,

We understand that the latest news regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) in Northern California and its potential spread in some U.S. communities is likely distressing to students and parents, which is why we are writing today to share the latest information we have.

There are no confirmed cases of the virus on campus or in Alameda County. However, campus leaders across numerous departments and units have been working on prevention and response efforts in coordination with local public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for two months now and we are ready to take prompt and effective action should a case occur here.

You can learn more about campus actions in light of recent local and national coronavirus developments in the Cal Message that we sent to faculty, staff and students on Thursday. We hope it will address any questions or concerns you may have.

Below is some additional information — more specific, practical information —  that may be helpful to you and your student:

Important information for your student
Students who have a routine cold or flu symptoms should stay home rather than come into University Health Services (UHS). Going to UHS would only expose others.

However, students should call the UHS Advice Line at (510) 643-7197 immediately if both of the following are true:

  • They have a fever (>100F if measured) and cough/difficulty breathing AND
  • Travel to any area with sustained transmission within the 2 weeks before symptoms start or contact with a proven case of coronavirus.

This does NOT necessarily mean the student has coronavirus, but it means they should put on a mask and get assessed ASAP. If students have influenza, UHS can also offer treatment. Strict CDC guidelines determine who can be tested for coronavirus; these guidelines are updated regularly as the situation evolves and tests can only be ordered with the approval of local public health officials.

UHS continues to see many individuals with influenza and people with milder respiratory symptoms concerned about coronavirus. Please be reminded that these infections are prevalent in our community at this time, as is common this time of year.

Prevention
The best protection against contracting the flu or coronavirus is:

  • Frequent hand-washing for at least 20 seconds (hand sanitizer works too) and certainly after sneezing or before/after touching your face or a sick person.
  • Avoiding touching your face.
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve, not your hands.
  • Staying home when you are ill to avoid infecting others: we have been strongly encouraging ill students, faculty, and staff to stay home.

See more tips and information in this video from Dr. Anna Harte, UHS’s medical director. The web page link also includes regular coronavirus updates from UHS, FAQs, and other helpful information. We encourage you to check that web site regularly for the most up to date information on the virus and important links to information regarding CDC travel advisories and other matters. University Health Services activated its emergency response team some weeks ago and has been adjusting workflows, stocking supplies, training staff, and preparing for any eventuality in order to keep students safe.

Additional campus efforts underway for students
Please know that campus leaders are meeting at least weekly on prevention and response efforts (issues range from ensuring we have housing available if we get a confirmed case here, to providing more hand sanitizers to various campus locations) and they are coordinating their efforts with public health authorities and with the University of California, Office of the President, which activated its Emergency Operations Center many weeks ago.

With spring break approaching, we are mindful that some students may be traveling. UHS has added travel information on the UHS Travel Guidance web page and students are encouraged to review it and the CDC website carefully before making plans.

We have been paying extra attention to supporting students who may be stigmatized by others based on their country of origin. Our message to the campus community is that most people in those areas are not ill, and there is a significant impact (professional, psychological, and potentially financial) on people who are excluded from their usual activities. Someone who has a cough or a fever does not necessarily have coronavirus.  Officials with the Berkeley International Office have been working with international students to ensure they have the information and assistance they need as they consider travel, handle concerns for loved ones back home and other matters. These efforts are in addition to Cal Messages and various other communications (residence and dining hall flyers, for example) provided to campus student populations.

For parents, we invite you to attend a Facebook Live event at 6 p.m. on March 17 with Dr. Guy Nicolette, executive director and assistant vice chancellor, University Health Services.

Resources
We are encouraging all members of the campus community to look out for each other during this difficult time. We want to make sure that students are aware of campus resources that can assist them.

  • Learn more at our coronavirus FAQ.
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers are located across the campus, and are readily available in our residential halls and dining halls, and we encourage all students, staff, and patrons to use them.
  • Students with symptoms are encouraged to call the UHS Advice Line at (510) 643-7197.
  • Mental health counseling: Counselors at University Health Services (UHS) at the Tang Center are available on a drop-in basis for urgent concerns: Counseling and Psychological Services website or (510) 642-9494 (after hours counseling line (855) 817-5667).

Lastly, we want to remind everyone that while the potential public health threat posed by the coronavirus is high, the CDC states that the risk to the general American public is low. And, here on the Berkeley campus, we are dedicated to doing everything we can to ensure our community’s safety and well-being.

Sincerely,

Anna Harte, M.D.
Medical Director, University Health Services

Marc Fisher
Vice Chancellor, Administration

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