Health Alert: Coronavirus (COVID-19)Updated: February 21, 2020, by Timmie Rochon, Medical Services Director, Health & Counseling Services
The outbreak of pneumonia caused by COVID-19 is an evolving international news story. We have no reason to believe that Reed is at any particular risk, but we are taking all reasonable precautions, which include close monitoring of the evolving information coming from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). We will continue to do everything we can to protect and maintain the health of the Reed community, and we thank you for doing your part by following the recommendations summarized below.
In the United States, there are currently 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across seven states. To our knowledge, there have been no reports of infection in Oregon. At this time, the immediate health risk to the general American population is low. Currently, this virus is NOT spreading in the United States. Individuals who arrived in the United States from China, have gone through extensive screening and possibly quarantine. Currently, foreign nationals who have been in China within the last 14 days are being denied entry to the United States. U.S. citizens, residents, and their immediate families who have been in China are allowed to enter the United States, but will undergo a "proactive" health screening to detect symptoms and asked to monitor their health at home for 14 days from the time they left China. U.S. citizens, residents, and immediate families who have been in Hubei Province in the past 14 days will undergo a mandatory quarantine for 14 days from the time they left China.
The situation continues to evolve, and these are the facts known about the virus at this point:
- The World Health Organization has announced the official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 coronavirus outbreak, COVID-19.
- This coronavirus has been identified as the beta-coronavirus, the same virus that contributed to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
- Both SARS and MERS are known to cause severe illness in people, but the full clinical picture for COVID-19 is still not well known. Symptoms of this new virus can range from little to no symptoms to severe illness and death.
- The risk to individuals is dependent on exposure. Close contact with someone already infected is required for someone to contract the disease. Healthcare workers and others in close contact with someone with a confirmed infection are the most vulnerable to contracting the disease.
- Anyone can become infected with COVID-19, but older adults and people with underlying medical conditions or who are immunocompromised may be at higher risk.
- The Federal Government and the CDC recommends that all travelers avoid non-essential travel to Mainland China. Travel advisories related to COVID-19 can be found here.
- Currently, there are 75,748 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with 99% of the cases in mainland China. The current mortality rate of COVID-19 is approximately 3% with none of those deaths occurring in the U.S.
The immediate risk of contracting this virus is low, but it is important for individuals to remain healthy to keep our community safe. It is currently flu and respiratory disease season, and precautions for these illnesses are the same as those for COVID-19:
- As much as possible, try to stay away from sick people.
- While sick, limit contact with others to reduce the chances of them getting sick.
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow—not your hands. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, throw the tissue away, and wash your hands afterwards.
- Eliminate the spread of germs by avoiding contact with eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least twenty seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs that can cause respiratory illnesses.
- CDC does NOT recommend that individuals wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory viruses, including COVID-19. A facemask should be worn by individuals who show symptoms of COVID-19, in order to protect others from the risk of getting infected.
- The flu vaccine WILL NOT protect you against COVID-19, but it may help protect you against contracting the flu, which the CDC estimates that Since October 1, 2019 there have been over 29,000 deaths in the U.S. attributed to the flu. If you didn't get vaccinated during Reed's free flu clinic this fall, please consider going to any of the numerous nearby pharmacies to get a flu shot now.
Students, staff, and faculty who have traveled in China in the last 14 days - or those who have been exposed to persons who have a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis AND are currently not exhibiting any respiratory symptoms and fever associated with COVID-19 - should practice self-isolation for a period of 14 days from when you departed China and refrain from coming to campus. If you develop symptoms during your self-isolation period, seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
Students, staff, and faculty who have traveled in China in the last 14 days—or those who have been exposed to persons who have a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 AND who are exhibiting, fever, cough, and shortness of breath—should seek medical evaluation as soon as possible and perform the following actions:
- Put on a facemask.
- When possible, keep at least six feet away from others.
- Practice good hygiene by washing hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- When coughing, cover your mouth with a tissue or your arm—not your hands.
- Prior to seeking care, call your healthcare provider to communicate your symptoms and travel history. When seeking medical care, refrain from lingering in areas of the medical facility where others may be present.
If you are a student or concerned about a student, follow the steps above. Students can call the Health and Counseling Center (HCC) at 503/777-7281 to arrange for a medical evaluation. The HCC is asking all students with any respiratory illness symptoms to put on a mask before entering the lobby and check in at the front desk. If the HCC suspects that there may be a case of COVID-19, they will contact the Multnomah County Health Department and follow their instructions.
Reed College will provide updates on COVID-19 as they become available. In the meantime, community members can find answers to frequently asked questions on the World Health Organization website or on the CDC's website.