Update on coronavirus measures, week of February 24

Dear Williams faculty, students and staff,

Steve Klass and I are writing with this week’s update about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

As you may have heard, clusters of cases have now been confirmed in Italy, Iran, South Korea, and elsewhere. We’re continuing to monitor the situation and to make sure none of our people are affected.

Public health officials now say they expect the virus to reach the U.S. at some point. Earlier today, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said, “It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore, but a question of when this will happen.”

The college had already been preparing for such a possibility, and we’ll continue to plan while also continuing to address concerns about international travel. We also encourage everyone to take reasonable measures to protect yourselves. We realize this is an evolving situation and can be stressful, and we’re grateful to everyone for your efforts.

With regards to travel, we strongly encourage every faculty member, staff member or student who’s planning to go abroad on work or personal travel—including during spring break—to register your international travel plans with the college in advance, via our Google form. This includes planned side trips (e.g., visiting Italy for a weekend during a trip to France). Williams will need to have this information in order to support you if you need assistance during a trip. As we mentioned last week, all submissions will be treated as “need to know” according to Williams’ data classification rules, and will only be used for the stated purpose.

You should also register all college-related travel with International SOS. The service is free to faculty, staff and students for this purpose, and the organization will provide worldwide assistance and even evacuation services if needed.

We advise you to carefully weigh the necessity of any travel against the potential hazards. We’ll continue to review all proposed international college trips through the Study Away office, the Dean of Faculty’s office, and others, and may recommend revoking college support, canceling or shortening such trips if it becomes necessary for safety reasons.

Given the way events are unfolding, any international travel carries a risk that you could be quarantined or prevented from returning to the U.S. The safest option is to postpone your trip until the outbreak subsides. If you feel you must go now, please take extra precautions by registering with International SOS and using their service for pre-trip advice. We also suggest that you closely track and follow the relevant advisories from the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control.

Students, like we did last year we’ll again offer you the option of staying on campus over spring break if you choose. Dining options will be provided. We’ll include instructions on how to take advantage of this option in next Tuesday’s update.

In keeping with best practices, the college is developing plans for a variety of campus situations. We want students to know that it’s possible that we might need to convert singles for next fall, if the outbreak continues and study-away programs are canceled. It’s too early to make that decision now, but for transparency’s sake we want you to know that it’s being considered as we review our options.

Thank you for your attention to these updates, and your partnership to keep Williams healthy. We’ll send another update next Tuesday.

All best wishes,

Marlene and Steve