Major updates to UA’s COVID-19 response
by Jim Johnsen, UA President |
This week has brought major changes in the international, national and state response and characterization of the COVID-19 situation. The World Health Organization has officially characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic. President Trump has restricted travel to the U.S. from much of Europe, and Gov. Dunleavy has declared a public health emergency.
While there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alaska, prevention is critical. In an effort to do everything we can to help keep our university communities safe and help slow the spread of the coronavirus we have convened the university’s Incident Management Team and — after consultation with the Chair of the Board of Regents, the chancellors, union and governance leaders — I have determined that the following steps are in the best interest of our communities:
- Starting March 23 and potentially for the rest of the semester, most UA courses will be offered using alternate delivery methods (online, audioconference or web-conference, etc.) rather than traditional classroom instruction. Exceptions may be made at the discretion of the chancellors for clinical, lab, and other hands-on courses where “social distance” and other personal safety measures can be assured. In addition, we are working to address issues such as computer access and other student needs in ways that maintain social distance.
- We are extending spring break by one week for students in order to allow faculty time to prepare their courses for alternative delivery methods. That means there will be no classes between now and March 23. Employees should return to work unless affected by restrictions established in separate guidance.
- We are asking students living in residence halls to either stay at their permanent residences, if they have traveled there for spring break, or to make plans to return to their permanent or alternative residences by March 17. Temporary access to residence halls will be provided to access needed personal items and study materials. The universities will provide a process to request exceptions for students who have no other residence or who cannot travel.
- We are canceling all events and gatherings of 25 people or more between today and March 31. We will revisit the situation later this month and make a decision then regarding events for the rest of the spring semester.
- We are expanding the restrictions on university-related travel.
- We are planning extra steps to clean and sanitize university facilities.
- We are staying in communication with the U.S. Department of Education and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities to ensure accreditation stays in place.
- We are expanding requirements for employees and others coming to campus to stay home/stay away after returning from travel to certain areas outside Alaska or if they have possible exposure to COVID-19.
More details on these changes are below and will also be available on our University of Alaska coronavirus website. Please also look for more information from your chancellors next week regarding specific details for each university, and please stay alert for additional changes.
The chancellors and I recognize that these changes will present significant challenges to our students and their families, and our employees. Please know that this decision was made after much deliberation, relying on expert advice from public health agencies and the experiences of other universities nationwide. Our primary concern is and will continue to be the safety of our students and employees. Thank you for your patience, perseverance and teamwork as we work through the incredible challenges posed by this situation.