From the Dean

A big focus this week has been UND’s ongoing preparation for the COVID-19 (coronavirus) issue. It is a fast-moving situation with many implications. But clearly, it is important to prepare earnestly. An example of such anticipatory activity was the decision two days ago by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to cancel this year’s annual meeting of the Council of Deans, a yearly event that draws hundreds of the leaders of U.S. medical schools and hospitals to one location (this year in San Diego, Calif.) for very productive meetings and seminars. But out of an abundance of caution, the AAMC cancelled the meeting and does not plan to reschedule it for this year.

Similarly, here at home, preparatory activities are in full swing. As interim UND president, I have appointed Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Tom DiLorenzo as the University’s point person to monitor and lead discussions regarding UND’s response to this situation. Provost DiLorenzo is working closely with Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police Eric Plummer, who is also our emergency management incident commander. Their unique expertise make it appropriate for them to lead the University’s response efforts. Chief Plummer oversees our already-prepared pandemic emergency response plan.

Members of the UND leadership team and other staff are meeting regularly to ensure the University is prepared. We also are working closely with local, state and national agencies in our planning, and following the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) closely. Earlier this week, UND established a Coronavirus Updates blog  that we hope will be a good source for information on this topic from the perspective of UND activities.

Yesterday I sent out an update to the UND community outlining UND’s position regarding study abroad, university travel and campus events. Here is a summary of our statement:

Study Abroad: The safety of our students is a priority. We have been in contact with every student who currently is studying overseas to discuss concerns they have, options should they wish to return to the United States early, and assistance to mitigate academic or other issues that may arise due to their return.

We are following CDC recommendations and suspending programs in identified Level 3 impacted countries, including China, South Korea, Iran and Italy. We currently have about 40 students studying abroad, none of whom are in these identified high-risk areas.

University-sponsored Travel: As with study abroad, the University is following CDC recommendations regarding travel, and we are suspending all travel to identified Level 3 countries. We will continue to monitor the situation.

Campus Activities: With no known presence of the virus in North Dakota at this time, UND is not at present modifying any campus activities. All classes and activities will continue as normal unless and until the situation changes. We also are working to ensure our buildings and facilities are appropriately prepared and supplied, and reviewing our daily custodial operations.

Please try to be careful out there and of course follow the guidelines suggested by the CDC, state and local health officials, and common sense. These include (in addition to getting a flu shot):

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • 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 immediately throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Stay healthy out there!

Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH
Interim President and Vice President for Health Affairs, UND
Dean, UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences