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Coronavirus (COVID-19) News and Research

Provost webinar outlines health and safety protocols for fall

As the University finalizes plans for the fall 2020 semester, many questions have been raised about how to operationalize health and safety processes and protocols to keep the community safe during the pandemic. On July 23, Provost Rob Clark invited University medical experts and leaders in facilities and operations to join him for a recorded webinar that addresses a number of issues that are upmost in the minds of our faculty, staff, students, and parents.

In a nearly hour-long recorded panel discussion, Clark was joined by medical experts and facilities leaders to discuss a range of topics, including current health guidelines and which COVID-19 test the University is employing; cleaning protocols for classrooms, labs, and public spaces; the science behind social distancing, personal protective equipment (PPE), and indoor and outdoor ventilation; what happens if someone tests positive for COVID-19; community thresholds and factors the University is closely monitoring; and ways that to ensure that community members follow the guidelines to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Webinar: Video and transcript

video recording (with captions) of the Reopening Webinar is available, along with an accessible transcript (PDF) of the conversation.

Clark was joined by medical experts and facilities leaders to discuss a range of topics

Virtual town hall answers questions from students, families
Two students on the River Campus wear face masks outside a residence hall.

Updated July 24, 2020

Questions about the University of Rochester’s Restart plan were asked and answered July 22 during an online town hall for parents and students. Topics included moving in, life on campus, symptom tracking and testing strategy, online learning, and more.

Webinar: Video and transcript

video recording (with captions) of the webinar is available, along with an accessible transcript (PDF) of the conversation.

Panelists for the town hall were:

  • John Hain, associate dean of academic and international affairs at the Eastman School of Music
  • Ralph Manchester, vice provost and director of University Health Service
  • Adrienne Morgan, associate vice president for equity and inclusion
  • Jeff Runner, dean of the College
  • Samantha Veeder, associate dean of College enrollment and director of financial aid
  • Jane Gatewood, vice provost of global engagement and cochair of the Coronavirus University Restart Team (CURT), will serve as facilitator
Engineers help volunteer group create face shields
An engineer sanitizes a plastic face shield

A University of Rochester team of engineers is using their problem-solving skills to help combat COVID-19.

The Rochester team of mechanical engineers teamed up with a local volunteer organization, Face Shields ROC. They utilized 3-D printers to create plastic face shields. This type of personal protective equipment (PPE) plays a critical role for medical professionals tending to those with the coronavirus.

The Rochester team alone created almost 3,000 face shields, which will go to caregivers in need of PPE.

Read the full story.

Biologists selected for ‘rapid research’ on COVID-19
An artist's rendering of the COVID-19 virus at a molecular level

Researchers in the University of Rochester’s Department of Biology have received funding awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study biological processes involved in COVID-19.

The funding is part of the NSF’s Rapid Response Research (RAPID) program to mobilize funding for high priority projects.

“At this point, combating this pandemic is an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ situation,” says Elaine Sia, University of Rochester professor and chair of biology. “Researchers in the biology department at the University, like biologists everywhere, have been learning all we can about the SARS-CoV2 virus.”

By better understanding the specific biological mechanisms and proteins involved in COVID-19 infection, scientists will better be able to develop effective treatments and vaccines to fight the disease.

Learn about the University of Rochester researchers and their coronavirus research projects.

Spring’s abrupt shift to remote learning offers lessons for the fall
Joan Saab, University of Rochester professor and CURT committee member, lectures a class

Faculty members are using the lessons of last spring’s abrupt shift to online education to better prepare for the fall.

Joan Saab, vice provost of academic affairs and Susan B. Anthony Professor of Art History and Visual and Cultural Studies, is among the CURT members providing holistic guidance and strategy for the University’s fall planning.

“We were responding to the circumstances,” says Saab. “For the most part, the classes being taught were not designed to be taught online. There is a big difference between having an online class and taking a class online.”

This fall, many professors will be taking a more intentional approach to online learning. Saab will be helping faculty think about that shift.

Read the interview with Joan Saab.

Orientation leaders hope to make new students Rochester ready—virtually
University of Rochester orientation leaders on a Zoom call

The College’s orientation leaders want to help new students get ready for their Rochester experience. They’ve developed The OL Show, a weekly virtual panel discussion. It covers topics important to new students, including those in the Class of 2024 as well as those transferring to the University.

Produced via Zoom, the show streams live each Thursday on the Orientation Facebook page. The show typically airs from 11 a.m. to noon Eastern time.

The OL Show is just one of the creative ways the orientation staff in the College and at the Eastman School of Music have been communicating virtually with first-year students and transfers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

See how else the University is responding to new student orientation.

New students and their families can visit the College’s orientation website and the Eastman’s orientation website for even more information.

Rochester research finds bats offer clues to treating COVID-19
A bat flies through the sky

Bats are remarkably able to tolerate viruses, including the strain of virus that causes the coronavirus.

What are the secrets to their virus resistance? According to University of Rochester research, it could be related to bats being able to control inflammation in their bodies.

Viruses, including COVID-19, are one factor that can trigger inflammation. Unlike humans, bats have developed specific mechanisms that reduce viral replication and also dampen the immune response to a virus. The result is a beneficial balance: their immune systems control viruses but at the same time, do not mount a strong inflammatory response.

“With COVID-19, the inflammation goes haywire, and it may be the inflammatory response that is killing the patient, more so than the virus itself,” says Vera Gorbunova, a biology professor at the University of Rochester. “The human immune system works like that: once we get infected, our body sounds an alarm and we develop a fever and inflammation. The goal is to kill the virus and fight infection, but it can also be a detrimental response as our bodies overreact to the threat.”

The researchers anticipate that studying bats’ immune systems will provide new targets for human therapies to fight diseases.

Read the full story now. You can find the research article, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, online here.

Memorial Art Gallery reopens as Finger Lakes region enters Phase Four
Man opening the doors of the Memorial Art Galllery, next to an orange sign asking everyone to wear a face mask while at the MAG.

With masks, social distancing, and other safety measures in place, the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) has reopened and is welcoming visitors.

The museum welcomed back its members on Saturday, June 27, and will reopen to the general public on Wednesday, July 8. Like other museums and cultural institutions statewide, MAG closed suddenly in mid-March to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Rachael Brown, director of marketing at MAG, says, “As we learned more about COVID-19, we refined our policies and put certain safety measures in place to make sure that MAG is safe for visitors.” The full safety guidelines are available on the MAG’s website. An example of some of the new safety precautions include:

  • Ensuring physical distancing
  • Limiting the number of guests in the museum or participants in any classes or workshops
  • Requiring visitors to wear masks at all times
  • Having prominent signage throughout the gallery to remind guests about the new policies
  • Increasing the cleaning and disinfecting protocols


Read the full news story.

What will it take to restore the economy after COVID-19?
Bar graph against world map

A Rochester professor explained a simple point about the prospects for economic recovery: it will depend on how effectively we can combat COVID-19.

Narayana Kocherlakota, the Lionel W. McKenzie Professor of Economics at the University of Rochester and a former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, discussed this point in a recent interview.

“If people are worried about the disease, they’re less likely to get a haircut or go to a restaurant. So the disease operates as a drag on the economy,” he says. “The better we do on public health, the better the economy will do.”

Kocherlakota says ultimately, the length of time it takes for the coronavirus to stop being a major factor in our lives is the biggest factor for the economy’s performance.

Read the full interview, including evaluation of multiple recovery scenarios.

University leaders address staff in virtual town hall
Meliora shield statue

On June 29, a group of leaders from the University of Rochester answered staff questions during a virtual town hall.

In an hour-long live-streamed panel discussion, President Sarah Mangelsdorf and other leaders updated employees regarding current issues. This included the impact of furloughs and financial savings plans on staff, restart plans for the fall, and steps the University is taking to address systemic issues that disadvantaged BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) employees face.

A video recording (with captions) of the leadership update for University staff is available online. An accessible transcript (PDF) of the conversation can also be downloaded.

Read a recap of the event.

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