Last month I updated you on the coronavirus and the initial work our emergency response teams are doing in coordination with the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention and Maine Emergency Management Agency to track the spread of the disease, share information, and to be ready to act if a local response becomes necessary.
While there still have not been any reported cases in Maine, the disease is spreading internationally, and people in our communities are understandably anxious. I am stepping up our planning and communication now because it’s the right thing to do. While our communities need not panic, every member of our community deserves access to information about the current public health risks associated with the coronavirus and our plans to prepare and respond.
We also need to be sure that everyone has the best available advice from health experts on the common sense steps we can all take to reduce the spread of infectious disease. As Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC reminded us yesterday, “Eat well, get plenty of sleep, and practice good hygiene. Healthy habits save lives.”
Yesterday our core emergency response staff and our Presidents and I, joined by our counterparts from the Maine Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy, reviewed this list of six initial UMS Action Steps for Coronavirus Preparations.
Starting today we have launched a daily community update that we will post and archive on the University of Maine System website every business day. If there is an urgent matter requiring more immediate attention, you will hear directly from me or your campus leadership or be contacted through our emergency alert system.
To that end we will be conducting a comprehensive outreach next week to ask every student and university employee to update their emergency contact information in Blackboard (and on MaineStreet). We will need accurate information to accommodate distance learning options whether it be for students returning home early from a study abroad program or if campus operations or instruction are curtailed in any way.
We are not overreacting. We are preparing. There is no reason yet to expect that any campus closures will be needed. We will continue to monitor medical advances and prevention efforts intended to prevent coronavirus from requiring pandemic responses. Still, an actionable continuity of instruction plan is the right thing to have, and we intend to be ready to limit risks associated with infectious disease or other emergency situations.
I have directed UMS Chief Information Officer David Demers and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Robert Placido to update and build awareness about our existing continuity of instruction plans in coordination with our campus academic leaders and faculty and our incident and emergency response teams in place and working on all campuses. I’ll also be ready to talk about this with you on my visits to your campus this spring.
To repeat, we’re not overreacting. We’re planning, and we’re going to be transparent about it. We’ll be as ready as we can be so we can continue to serve our students and protect our communities’ public health.
Thank you for attention to this message and to the updates that are to come.
Dannel P. Malloy