Update: Williams prevention and preparedness measures for coronavirus

Williams students, faculty and staff,

With classes starting tomorrow, I write with news about the college’s preparedness for the novel coronavirus outbreak and how each of you can help limit the risk of infection at Williams. Here is some important information to be aware of.

  • First, as of now there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus at Williams. Circumstances can change quickly, so we are monitoring the situation and will email you weekly updates every Tuesday, until the risk of infection has subsided. The Student Health and Wellness Center will also post these updates on their website.
  • The college has convened a team of staff and administrators who are ready to implement safety protocols for healthcare, dining, housing, custodial services, transportation, and other crucial functions. This group is meeting weekly to track the situation and expand our response if necessary. They benefit from Williams’ considerable experience managing past epidemics, including SARS and H1N1. In the unlikely event that we need to activate such protocols, we will inform you via email and let you know what steps to take.
  • If you traveled to China in January 2020 or have been in contact with anyone who did, and you experience symptoms associated with the novel coronavirus, including a fever of 100.4 or higher, persistent coughing or shortness of breath, please contact your healthcare provider or the Student Health Center. If using the Center, call 413-597-2206 rather than walking in. You will be asked screening questions that can help avoid an unnecessary trip, while limiting the risk of spreading any illness you may have.
  • Students, your health is our top priority. You will not lose your place in a class or receive a grade penalty for health-related absences. Your faculty are aware of this, and if you miss class they can provide the necessary support to help you catch up. Contact your professors and the Dean of College’s office with any questions or concerns.
  • We have identified four Williams community members who were in China during January 2020. All four have safely returned to the U.S. The Student Health Center has reached out to them and will monitor their condition and support their health. As of now, none are exhibiting symptoms of any illness.
  • I ask each of you to please consistently take the simple steps recommended by the CDC to stop the spread of coronavirus—or any virus. Get the flu vaccine if you are eligible, wash hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds at a time, frequently clean touch surfaces (e.g., cell phones and keyboards), avoid sharing food utensils or personal items, and always use a tissue or the crook of an elbow to cover a cough or sneeze. Hand sanitizer is a useful short-term solution if you do not have immediate access to soap and water, but you should still wash your hands as soon as possible.
  • The Williams Facilities staff also asks students to please remove all personal belongings from dorm bathrooms whenever you are not present and using them. This will enable the custodians to thoroughly sanitize those spaces for your safety.
  • Because the U.S. Department of State has raised its risk level in China to Level 3 out of 4, by college policy any Williams travel to the region must, for the time being, be reviewed by Senior Staff before it can be approved. No such trips have been proposed since the risk level was upgraded.
  • Finally, if you or anyone you know experiences national, racial, ethnic or other bias in relation to the coronavirus outbreak, I urge you to engage the college’s process for reporting bias incidents so we can respond effectively.

It is important to me, and to all of us, that Williams help everyone stay healthy. Good information is key. Since guidelines often evolve when new developments come to light, we will share weekly updates to help keep you and our whole community safe.