Townhall held to help educate students, faculty, and staff about COVID-19

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Multiple distinguished SUNY professionals gathered at the University at Albany for a town hall-style meeting Wednesday. Their goal was to educate their community-at-large about the novel coronavirus and the college’s preparedness plan.

SUNY officials said working groups are currently putting together a plan for possible scenarios, including the possibility of the college closing, to make sure college faculty and staff are ready to respond to an outbreak on campus.

“This is an important topic. We really wanted to share with you the plans that are currently underway for our campus in the wake of COVID-19 as it becomes a worldwide epidemic,” said UAlbany Provost Carol Kim in her opening statement. “This is a session to provide information to the campus, to our faculty, students and staff.”

“We are in very close conversation with the state health department and the CDC, and speaking to them daily on guidance, pushing this information out to our partners which include hospitals, health care providers, first responders, law enforcement and of course members of the county government,” said Albany County Department of Health Commissioner, Elizabeth Whalen who also attended the event.

Whalen gave an update from the health department, saying 37 individuals in the county have been monitored by the Albany County Department of Health. Eleven individuals will continue to be monitored until their 14-day quarantine has expired. She said the most important thing for people to do is practice good hygiene by washing their hands, covering their sneezes/coughs and staying home when they’re sick.

Associate vice president of the college’s Office of Enterprise Risk Management and Compliance, Kevin Wilcox said they are asking students to follow the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) advice for travel during spring break which includes refraining from nonessential travel to China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea. The CDC is also advising older persons or those with chronic health issues to consider postponing nonessential travel.

Wilcox said any student, faculty or staff coming from an area of high risk must isolate themselves for 14 days and be medically cleared before being allowed back on campus.

“We have been working on this since late January, this is not new to us. Since that time we have been tracking all students, all faculty and staff we’re aware of, all visiting scholars and any other visitors to our campus that are coming from affected areas,” Wilcox said.

Working groups are putting together academic plans for isolated students that were pulled from study abroad programs. Those same working groups are also putting together a plan that would accommodate a much larger affected student population if the college has to close, said Wilcox. He also said the college needs the cooperation and respect from its community in order to keep the campus safe.

VIDEO: Watch the full UAlbany townhall

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