Reaction and preparation

SPU administration details the measures in place to respond to COVID-19 outbreak in Washington.

Julia Battishill, news editor

Amidst flying rumors and an influx of media surrounding the recent outbreak of COVID-19 , (commonly referred to as Coronavirus) in the United States, and especially in King County, Seattle Pacific University’s administration has been holding meetings and planning next steps.

Jeff Jordan, vice president of student life, is leading SPU’s preventative efforts. He said that he has been staying on top of news, as well as taking direction from Health Services and from the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC).

SPU Health Services’s main contact for these issues is the King County Seattle Health Department, and Jordan said the university is following those recommendations closely.

He said that the preventative measures that have been listed on the SPU website and emailed to campus are the best checkpoint for students and that the administration is doing what it can to keep up to date.

“We’re trying to get information out quickly. Covering your cough, washing your hands, things you would do for the flu anyway are also what the CDC is recommending for COVID-19, as far as preventative measures,” Jordan said.

As far as shutting down campus, as many students have heard rumors about, Jordan said there are no immediate or concrete plans to do so, though they remain prepared to take that measure if need be.

According to Jordan, no institutions nearby — neither Seattle University or University of Washington — are planning on closing their campuses and switching to temporary online school just yet.

“As of ten o’clock this morning [March 2], there are no changes in operating procedures in any one of our three campuses,” Jordan said. “I know of no institution that is closing; we are in contact with Gonzaga, we are in contact with Whitworth … So far, none of those institutions are changing their normal operating procedures.”

However, they are preparing for that situation should it occur.

Conversation around that option is continuing with other institutions, as well as at SPU. Jordan, who has been meeting with and exchanging information with the VPs of Student Life at UW and SU for years, says they are all prepared for that option.

“Every school is looking at what would happen if we needed to … do online classes,” Jordan explained. “Whether to get us through the quarter or even, looking forward, into next quarter.”

“We’re on top as much as we can be at this point. Of course, to turn around all of our classes to go completely online … that would be a big stretch. There might be a way that some classes could do it easier than others.”

Right now, the conversation is often centered around travel, Jordan said. Administration is considering whether to offer students housing during spring break so they have the option not to travel. He predicts a decision to be made on that front next week.

Policy surrounding travel itself is also being discussed. Whitworth recently released a statement asking students to report if they had traveled to a location of Level 3 Advisory. “We’re talking about that as well,” Jordan said.

At this point, this is what Jordan would classify as a “community health issue,” not an “emergency situation.”

Facilities, academics, health services and administration have been meeting to discuss how to best inform students, as they learn more every day from the CDC and local health organizations.

Coughing into your elbow, washing your hands, and staying home if you are sick are Jordan’s main advice for students.