Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update - February 28

Simmons continues to closely monitor the outbreak of novel coronavirus (renamed COVID-19) internationally, nationally and locally. The situation is evolving rapidly with new information available on a daily basis. Currently, there are more than 80,000 cases worldwide, with more than 97% of cases reported in mainland China.

A multidisciplinary team of Simmons staff and faculty is meeting regularly to ensure that we have the guidelines in place and supplies necessary to protect our community. With the support of our surrounding hospitals, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the Boston Public Health Commission, we remain as prepared as possible to identify, isolate and care for any patients with possible COVID-19.

Situation Summary

COVID-19 causes acute respiratory disease that ranges from mild to severe. While roughly 80% of cases are mild, fatality rates are 2-3%; these rates appear to be higher in those with preexisting medical problems and the elderly. COVID-19 has spread from mainland China to many countries around the world; most new cases this week have occurred in South Korea, Italy, Japan and Iran.

To date, the United States has 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The risk to the public from COVID-19 remains low in Massachusetts, with only one case reported in the state on February 1. The first case of “community spread” or infection from an unknown source in an individual who it appears did not travel overseas was confirmed this week in California. However, it is important to keep in mind that at this point in time, members of our community are significantly more likely to get sick with the flu or other common respiratory viruses.

How to Protect Yourself

As with many other respiratory viruses, COVID-19 is spread by coughing, sneezing and close contact in crowded places. Prevention measures are similar to those for most other respiratory viral illnesses, such as influenza. To help stop the spread of respiratory viruses:

  • Clean your hands frequently with soap and water (if not available, use alcohol based hand sanitizer)
  • Cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve when you sneeze or cough
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Stay home and avoid close contact with others if you are sick

What to Do if You Become Ill

If you experience fever, cough or difficulty breathing following contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient, or if you have traveled from a country with a travel advisory within 14 days of the onset of illness, you should remain at home or in your dorm room. Before seeking medical attention, contact Health Services at 617-521-1020 during office hours or Public Safety at 617-521-1112 to reach a provider on-call for further instructions.

Travel Advisories

As spring break approaches, we want to share with you the most current travel advisory information. On February 2, the U.S. government began implementing heightened efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 to the United States. Any U.S. citizen or permanent resident returning to the U.S. from China will undergo symptom screening and will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine or monitored self-quarantine.

The CDC recently posted a travel advisory with additional countries on a watch list (below). If you are traveling internationally over break, we recommend that you check frequently for updated travel advisories involving your destination, including any layovers. Please remember that this is a rapidly changing situation; you may be required to abide by a 14-day quarantine upon your return from countries other than China, depending upon the perceived level of risk at the time or if you have been exposed while traveling.

Warning Level 3 has been issued for China and South Korea: CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel.

Warning Level 2 has been issued for Japan, Italy and Iran: CDC recommends that older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel.

If you are involved in a study abroad program and you haven’t heard from them already, you will receive communication from the Center for Global Education (CGE) with information relevant to your situation. For those of you traveling in May, it is too early to determine how, or if, the coronavirus will affect your program. For more information, please contact the CGE at [email protected].

For additional information about COVID-19 and updated travel advisories, please visit the CDC website.

It is important that we work together as a community and support one another over the coming weeks. Diversity is one of the strengths of the Simmons community and we are here to support those affected students and communities. I ask that you bear in mind that someone wearing a protective medical mask is not necessarily sick; these masks are a common health precaution among individuals from many countries around the world.

Simmons will continue to monitor the situation and work with our partners to share pertinent and important information with our community as it becomes available.