March 2, 2020

U of L takes steps to prepare for coronavirus

By Eli Hughes–

The first American death from COVID-19 over the weekend made U of L’s response to the coronavirus more urgent.

A 50-year-old man in Washington state became the first American to die from the disease on Feb. 29.

Provost Beth Boehm sent an email to University of Louisville students and faculty Feb. 28 informing them of the steps the university has taken to keep the campus community safe amid concern over COVID-19, the scientific name for the disease caused by the coronavirus.

There are currently no documented cases of the virus in Kentucky, but evidence of possible community spread in the United States has caused alarm nationwide.

In her email, Boehm said Campus Health Service’s website has been updated to include links to the Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, which has the most up-to-date information about the prevention and spread of the disease.

She also announced U of L has updated its travel policy concerning the countries most affected by the virus. That policy change means study abroad programs to level three countries are suspended, so there will be no university-sanctioned travel to these countries until further notice.

The CDC defines level three countries as anywhere COVID-19 is active. This classification currently applies to China, South Korea, Iran and Italy.

The two members of the U of L community who were quarantined after returning from travel to China are reported to be healthy and out of quarantine now.

Boehm also announced a tabletop discussion that will be planned within the next month. This discussion will be a chance for U of L officials to examine the university’s precautions against COVID-19 and address areas of concern.

Boehm took the opportunity to reassure the campus community but also make it clear the university is prepared.

“We have not experienced any cases of COVID-19. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as we continue to prepare for any issues that may arise,” Boehm said.

Outside of the university, Mayor Greg Fischer and Governor Andy Beshear have both made statements concerning the spread of COVID-19.

Fischer addressed concerns at a press conference on Feb. 27 and assured Louisville residents that the city is not currently at risk for an outbreak of COVID-19, but city officials are prepared to take steps against the disease. “Our team knows how to work together across agencies with community partners to protect the health and safety of all our citizens,” Fischer said.

It has been announced that 10 people in Jefferson County are self monitoring for the virus after travel from high risk areas. This means they are staying home and monitoring closely for symptoms, but none of them have tested positive for COVID-19.

Beshear also spoke at a seperate press conference Feb. 27 reassuring Kentucky residents that things are under control at the state level as well.

“I want to reassure everyone that your state government, your local health departments, everyone is prepared and is ready to address this issue head on,” he said.

There is currently not a vaccine for COVID-19 but there are precautions that can be taken. The CDC’s guidelines for respiratory disease prevention should be followed:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • 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.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a face mask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

File Photo//The Louisville Cardinal

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