Updated February 19, 2020
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) continue to address the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) at national and global levels. University of Rochester health experts and emergency preparedness officials have also been monitoring this concern locally in collaboration with Monroe County and New York State health organizations.
In addition, the University is proactively managing the indirect impacts that Covid-19 may have on University operations. President Sarah Mangelsdorf has established the Coronavirus University Response Team (CURT) to plan holistically for how the situation may affect the entirety of the institution in areas including public health matters, campus climate, University travel, student applications and enrollment, and the overall well-being of University community members.
This page is provided to all University of Rochester community members as a reference on Covid-19 locally and as guidance on whom to contact with specific concerns about its impact here and abroad.
This FAQ will be updated as Covid-19 information changes or becomes available.
Most recent update: February 11, 2020.
What do we currently know about the novel coronavirus?
The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) is a respiratory illness that first emerged in Wuhan, China in 2019. Although the virus has spread rapidly through China since its emergence, the general public in the U.S. is still considered at low risk for contracting Covid-19, according to the CDC.
The CDC has the most up-to-date public health and risk information.
Here at the University, University Health Service (UHS) continues to closely monitor Covid-19 in collaboration with University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) physicians and the Monroe County Health Department. The UHS website has information on how the University has responded, as well as additional guidance on ways to help prevent and contain illness among students, faculty, and staff.
UR Medicine is fully prepared to respond to any Covid-19 cases that emerge in the University’s hospitals and clinical facilities, and the University’s Office of Emergency Preparedness has plans and protocols in place to address Covid-19 in the unlikely event it should it appear among students, faculty, or staff.
How dangerous is it?
Covid-19 currently has no treatment or vaccine, so its duration as a health crisis is still unknown. As with other respiratory illnesses, infection with Covid-19 can cause mild symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. It can be more severe for some and lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. The elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions or compromised immune systems appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with Covid-19 and have a higher risk for it to be life-threatening.
In comparison to this year’s seasonal flu virus, the public health concern is lower for Covid-19. In the U.S. alone, the flu has already caused an estimated 19 million illnesses, 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths this season, according to CDC.
Are there confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New York State?
To date, no cases have been confirmed in New York State. The WHO provides an up-to-date visualization of the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. and globally.
Here at the University, screening has been taking place since mid-January and continues.
- Difference between screening and testing: Screening is the evaluation UHS staff members have been conducting with any member of the University community who meets the double criteria of presenting the symptoms of respiratory illness and having recently traveled back from a region where the coronavirus outbreak has occurred. Testing occurs when a physician completes a screening and, along with public health authorities, determines there is a potential for infection. The individual’s blood and respiratory samples are then sent to an approved facility for medical testing.
To date, dozens of individuals at the University have been screened, and no one at the University or in Monroe County has needed to be tested.
So no one in the University community has had Covid-19?
Correct, there have been no cases of novel Covid-19 at the University or in Monroe County, and no one has needed to be tested. If an individual from our area is confirmed to have Covid-19, the Monroe County Health Department will issue a notice to the community, which would be communicated to University students, faculty, and staff.
Are there ways to prevent contracting the virus?
When it comes to preventing all viruses, including the flu, the following guidance holds true:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay hydrated and get plenty of rest.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. And when you are sick, stay home.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Get your flu vaccine—it’s not too late to benefit from it. Students may still receive the vaccine at UHS; other members of the University community should contact their primary care provider or visit pharmacies with onsite flu vaccinations, including Wegmans, CVS, and Walgreens.
Should I wear a mask?
The CDC does not currently recommend the use of face masks for the general public to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Additionally, UHS and UR Medicine staffs need the limited number of masks they have on-hand for their ill patients and the health providers who care for them.
I have recently returned from a trip to China or have had contact with someone who may have the coronavirus and have respiratory symptoms. What should I do?
Call University Health Service at (585) 275-2662 for guidance. At URMC, employees and students should call SMH Employee Health at (585) 487-1000, option #1 and then option #2.
I traveled to China before the outbreak, and now I cannot return. What should I do?
Graduate students who were already abroad before the start of the coronavirus outbreak and are now currently unable to return to Rochester because of travel restrictions will continue to receive their current level of support at the discretion of their respective graduate dean. They should contact their advisor and graduate dean for more information.
For full-time and part-time employees who traveled to China for personal reasons (i.e. vacation) and cannot immediately return, the University will allow the use of personal emergency time under Policy 115 – Procedures for Attendance. Additional leave of absence policies may apply depending on the individual’s situation. Department administrators should confer with their HR Business Partners regarding extended leave options.
The University does not have the appropriate licenses to allow University employees to work from China.
Can I still travel to China?
The U.S. Department of State has issued a “Do Not Travel” advisory for China and most commercial flights into and out of China have been suspended. In addition, the CDC has issued a level 3 travel warning for China, indicating travelers should avoid all non-essential travel. As a result, the University has temporarily designated China as a high-risk destination. Due to this designation, all students (undergraduate, graduate, medical, and post-docs) may not proceed with University-sponsored or -supported travel to China until further notice.
Rochester faculty and staff travel to China is also restricted until further notice, with exceptions considered on a case-by-case basis if the individual has been invited to assist with relief efforts in an official capacity.
Note: While individuals are strongly recommended not to undertake personal travel to China at this time, Rochester does not regulate personal travel. Individuals choosing to travel on personal or unauthorized University travel to China should be aware that they will do so at their own risk. The University will likely be unable to assist them should the situation worsen, and the above policies regarding leave may not apply for those unable to return.
I’m worried about someone who might be sick or might have been exposed to coronavirus. What should I do?
Call University Health Service at (585) 275-2662 for guidance. At URMC, employees and students should call SMH Employee Health at (585) 487-1000, option # 1 and then option #2.
What is the University doing to protect the campus community?
In collaboration with UR Medicine physicians and the Monroe County Health Department, UHS continues to closely monitor the novel coronavirus outbreak and screen individuals who meet the double criteria of presenting the symptoms of respiratory illness and having recently traveled back from a region where the coronavirus outbreak has occurred. These efforts align with CDC and WHO guidance on screening and response protocols, along with other measures to protect the health and well-being of the campus community.
The University’s Office of Emergency Preparedness is continuously monitoring the situation in conjunction with local, state, and national public health authorities.
Are campus events and activities being cancelled in response to Covid-19?
No, the campus is open and classes, events, and activities are operating on a normal schedule. If the University’s operating status changes based on Covid-19, the University community would be notified immediately through AlertUR.
Will I be penalized if I don’t attend class? What about work?
If you feel ill, you should use the same judgment you would normally use about attending class or work, staying home or seeking medical care. Because the University and Medical Center are operating on a normal schedule, the regular academic policies for class attendance apply; regular HR policies apply for work attendance. You should always notify your professors or your supervisor if you are unable to attend class or work for any reason.
How do I send money or supplies to help China?
Currently, our understanding of the official position of the Chinese state and hospitals is that no help is needed at the time. We are checking on ways that individuals might be able to assist China through verified relief organizations and we will post that information as it becomes available.
What counseling and support resources are available at Rochester?
We understand members of our community may be concerned and anxious, and especially so if they have loved ones in China. As always, if students, faculty, or staff wish to speak with someone about their worries or other personal concerns, the following resources are available:
- CARE Network Resource Center (University-wide for students)
- University Counseling Center (University-wide for students) (585) 275-3113—24 hours a day
- University Faith Communities at the Interfaith Chapel (on River Campus for students, faculty, and staff) (585) 275-4321
- The Employee Assistance Program (University-wide for faculty and staff) (585) 276-9110