Dear Wake Forest community,
As the world continues to learn about and adapt to concerns regarding COVID-19, Wake Forest is actively taking steps to help ensure the health and safety of our community.
Wake Forest is following the guidance of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). We continue to learn and benefit from the information and expertise of infectious disease experts at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the Forsyth County Health Department Communicable Diseases Division, as well as our travel risk assessment partner. On campus, our crisis response team is coordinating plans to address scenarios that could impact the health and safety of faculty, staff and students and campus operations.
Last week, we made the decision to suspend our study abroad program in Venice, Italy. We are grateful the students are all healthy and regret that their experience abroad was cut short. We welcome them back to campus for the remainder of the semester. Even though the students will have exceeded the 14-day incubation period prior to their return, Student Health Service will take the extra precaution of screening these students before they move into the residence halls.
We are also carefully considering our other study abroad programs in accordance with the latest updates from the CDC. We benefit from an extensive network of professional organizations and relationships with peer institutions and are exchanging information and best practices to stay ahead of this health concern. We will continue to review each Wake Forest program and location on an individual basis – monitoring travel advisories for individual countries from the CDC and U.S. State Department, and seeking guidance from local and state health officials. At this time, we do not plan to close other study abroad programs, but the situation is changing rapidly, and we will not hesitate to take additional action if needed.
We are aware that a single case of COVID-19 has been identified in North Carolina, and CDC confirmation is pending. There have not been any confirmed cases in Winston-Salem, Forsyth County or surrounding areas.
On Friday, many of our community members will disperse for spring break, and some may visit locations with reported cases. Wake Forest strongly recommends not traveling to locations identified by the CDC and State Department as posing a heightened risk. Whether you are here or away from campus, I encourage you to remain aware and vigilant.
We will continue to update the Wake Forest COVID-19 website with available information. This site links to excellent sources of information, including the CDC. Messages updating the Wake Forest community are also archived on this site.
University custodial staff are paying special attention to cleaning door knobs, handrails and other high-touch surfaces, consistent with seasonal flu prevention. Additionally, the CDC recommends the following preventative actions to reduce the risk of developing COVID-19, influenza and other respiratory illnesses:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
I understand that the uncertainty and the rapidly evolving situation may create a heightened level of stress. Please take advantage of the many resources available to faculty, staff and students to manage stress, anxiety and emotional wellbeing. For faculty and staff, additional information is forthcoming from Human Resources and the Office of the Provost. I encourage you to stay informed, take preventative action and be supportive of one another in the coming days.
Nathan O. Hatch