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Response to First Confirmed Case of COVID-19 at UCI

Section 1

March 23, 2020

Dear UCI Post-Docs:

I am truly sorry that your first day of Spring Break began with an announcement of a COVID-19 positive case on our campus. Many of you remain in Irvine, in graduate family housing, as we all seek to play our own best role in this global battle to lessen and eventually eliminate the threat of the coronavirus pandemic;

As you know, this morning UCI announced that a case of COVID-19 has been confirmed among the UCI community. In line with University policy and guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Orange County Health Care Agency, the affected individual is self-isolating off campus. Students, faculty, and staff who may have had direct contact with the individual are being notified and will be asked to self-isolate. If you were identified as someone who has been in contact with, or in close proximity to, any individual who has tested positive for the virus, you will be notified. If you were not identified as such, your risk is no different than it was yesterday, and you should continue to follow the same best practices and recommendations. 

Your safety and well-being are my utmost concern. Campus authorities are closely monitoring and evaluating this unfolding situation. 

I wish I could tell you when we can expect things to return to normal. Sadly, no one can. What I will commit to you is that I will tell you whatever I can, regularly, while being as transparent as possible.

We will open labs and studios, return to in-person courses, reignite our exciting array of in-person intensives, workshops, performances, and more as soon as we are safely able.

In accordance with health privacy laws, we cannot disclose the identity or personal information regarding the individual nor which housing community is theirs. If you are aware of their identity, please respect their privacy so they can focus on their health and recovery. Until widespread testing can be achieved, it is still best to assume that everyone has been exposed, including you, even if you have no symptoms. A confirmed case on our campus does not change those recommendations.

We remain diligent in our efforts to keep our community safe. Campus residence and dining halls, as well as health services, remain open for students who stay during the break and/or from the start of the spring quarter. We are working to ensure that students who need funding assistance with items related to COVID-19 are able to request special funding from the University wherever possible. For example, AGS has special travel grants for those seeking to leave campus, and TAs who need additional technology to support emergency distance learning can request it through their departments. We will continue in our efforts to marshal additional resources and share those when we are able.

Our social-distancing efforts will help our community “flatten the curve” and deploy vital health care resources to those who need it most. This situation, both locally and globally, continues to evolve.  Please refer to our Coronavirus website for important information and updates.  You may also contact our Coronavirus Response Center at 949-824-9918 or covid19@uci.edu if you have any questions or comments.

I am awe-struck by the incredible stories of kindness and resiliency I continue to hear from our community. I’ve been incredibly impressed by the number of staff from Graduate Division who have been volunteering to help at the Fresh Needs Hub or to donate blood. I’ve been amazed at the number of student workers volunteering to help out with UCI’s clinical needs. Earlier in the week, I was told about an entire research team who had lost access to several field sites at K-12 schools and were able to rapidly turn their project into one focused on distance learning. Yesterday, I had a PhD student tell me that this crisis has reaffirmed her resolve to succeed, and she has been making more progress on her writing than ever before. I’ve also heard tales from my colleagues at other universities of butchering their first emergency distance learning class, only to have the undergraduate students and grad TAs help them recover, with everyone learning a lot in the process.

There is no doubt that many of us are suffering. We will not know the full extent for some time. I am, and remain always, an optimist. Stay safe, wash your hands, and be kind to yourself and each other. We will get through this together. Should you want to talk, reach out to UCI Counseling Services, who can offer telehealth services, as well as the Graduate Division counselors, Elizabeth Dunn (dunnes@uci.edu) and Phong Luong (pbluong@uci.edu). Reach out to each other—virtually or at a distance—and talk through what you are experiencing. We need to you to stay physically isolated right now, but please know that you are not alone. 

I look forward to seeing you as soon as I can. In the meantime, be safe, be kind, and be well.

 

Gillian Hayes
Kleist Professor of Informatics
Vice Provost for Graduate Education
Dean of the Graduate Division