President's Message to Campus - March 5, 2020

Coronavirus

Ferris State University is closely monitoring the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. At this time, there are no confirmed cases in Michigan and the current risk to campus is very low. 

COVID-19 is a virus that often has respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough and fever. Most cases have mild to moderate symptoms. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those associated with the common cold and influenza. It is important to remember that we are still actively in cold and flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides an excellent summary on COVID-19 that is updated frequently. Included in this summary are the following statements –

At this time, however, most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus. This virus is NOT currently spreading widely in the United States. However, it is important to note that current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic. This is a rapidly evolving situation and the risk assessment will be updated as needed.

Current risk assessment: For most of the American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.

More cases of COVID-19 are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in communities in the United States.

If you have traveled to an area with a high level of active COVID-19 cases or have known contact with someone with active COVID-19 and experience any of these symptoms, please call your local healthcare provider for advisement. Students should contact the Birkam Health Center at 231-591-2614.

International Travel

Coronavirus is a worldwide health concern and is impacting study abroad programs. On March 1, the CDC issued the following statement –

This guidance is for Institutes of Higher Education with students participating in foreign exchange or study abroad programs. 

Consider postponing or canceling student foreign exchange programs

Given the global outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) institutes of higher education (IHE) should consider postponing or canceling upcoming student foreign exchange programs.

The COVID-19 situation is dynamic. Given the speed of spread and the number of countries experiencing human-to-human transmission, IHEs should evaluate the risks associated with choosing to maintain programs abroad and take the appropriate proactive measures. IHEs that continue to maintain programs abroad should monitor the CDC’s website for additional information.

Based on this guidance, some public universities in Michigan have decided to cancel all study abroad activities. We have not taken this step at Ferris State University, but continue to suspend University-sponsored, international travel for students, faculty, and staff to China and Southeast Asia.  Additionally, University-sponsored travel will not be approved for countries classified as Level 2 or Level 3 by the CDC for travel guidance. Currently these countries are China, South Korea, Iran and Italy for Level 3 and Japan for Level 2. CDC guidelines currently require a 14-day self-isolation for people travelling from a Level 2 or Level 3 country.  

We will continue to review University-sponsored international travel, taking in account the best available current information. For University-sponsored international travel that does occur, students will be provided the opportunity to opt out should they prefer to not participate.

University Planning

This is a developing public health emergency that is evolving rapidly in other parts of the world. At the University we have tasked two groups on campus to monitor this situation and ensure that plans are up-to-date and implemented as needed, to keep students, faculty and staff safe. 

The Emerging Health Issues on Campus group is chaired by Birkam Health Center Director Lindsay Barber. They are working in conjunction with local health officials and experts to monitor this situation, implement prevention and response plans, and offer guidance to members of campus.

Vice President Jeanine Ward-Roof is leading a task force working on continuity planning in the event of disease transmission and a possible pandemic here. As statewide and regional efforts are mobilized we will actively participate in them.

In addition, earlier this week students were given the opportunity to stay on campus in Bond Hall during spring recess. The Market will remain open to serve those students who choose to remain on campus next week.

Additional Information

Everyone can play a role in preventing the spread of illness by following some simple, common sense everyday actions, including:

-       Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds. 
-       Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
-       Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
-       Stay home when you are sick.
-       Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

If you are considering traveling, either internationally or domestically, please follow travel alerts on the CDC website and the U.S. Department of State website.

For more information on the coronavirus in Michigan visit the Department of Health and Human Services website. You can also read more information on the Birkam Health Center website. I encourage you to educate yourself with information from these reliable sources.

Your health and well-being are important to us. We will continue to monitor this developing situation. After spring break, I will update you with progress of our planning efforts at Ferris State University. 

David L. Eisler, president