Updates on Campus Operations/Remote Working: Message from President Leshin & the Coronavirus Emergency Response Team

DEPARTMENT(S): 
March 15, 2020

Dear WPI Community,

This message is intended to give you the latest information on the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, and to give you a sense of some of what we are planning for in the days and weeks ahead. The situation is fast-moving, and the Coronavirus Emergency Response Team (CERT) is working continually to ensure that we take appropriate action as COVID-19 cases across the Commonwealth increase. WPI will always follow the current guidelines of local and state public health officials.

COVID-19 Cases in the Campus Community

While we still have no cases of individuals in the campus community who have tested positive for COVID-19, this virus spreads at a fast rate, and availability of testing is increasing. Therefore, it is likely that that WPI will see our first confirmed case in the coming days. We are prepared for that eventuality.

We have learned that two members of our community have sought testing for the virus. These individuals are not currently on the campus. They have isolated themselves and are following the guidelines of local and state health agencies prior to being authorized to return. When test results are available, we will be informed, and we will inform the community. Environmental Health and Safety has taken steps to deep clean known contact spaces in offices and labs. This is in addition to the heightened cleaning protocols currently in use.

Should either of these tests prove positive, the public health authorities will assume responsibility for the situation. We will work with them to support their protocols concerning identification of individuals who have come into close contact with an infected individual, any needs for self-quarantine, and additional testing. If you have been defined as a “close contact” by the public health authorities, you will be contacted by them. If you have not been contacted, there is no elevated concern for you at the present time. In order to return to campus, anyone who has tested positive will need to be cleared by public health authorities.

We will inform you as positive cases in our community become known. In all communications, we will follow public health guidelines to protect the privacy of any individual impacted. In this way we will balance our commitment to provide you with necessary information with the requirement to protect the identity of any impacted member of our community. We ask all members of our community to respect the privacy of individuals who are dealing with this virus.

Our expectation is that all members of our community will follow CDC guidelines, including contacting your doctor if you have symptoms, engage in frequent hand washing, maintain appropriate social distancing and if you are concerned, you can choose to self-quarantine. 

Campus Operations/Remote Working:

Our current status is in line with previous guidance. Specifically:

  • The campus is open but with limited face-to-face operations. For hours of major building operations, see our prior message. By Tuesday, March 17, all campus buildings will require card access for entry.
  • All WPI employees who can work remotely should make arrangements with their managers to do so. Managers should be flexible when considering requests to work remotely on a temporary basis.
  • For employees whose work cannot be done remotely, managers should encourage their teams to conduct meetings virtually and implement creative strategies to reduce the density of employees on campus. This includes all work spaces, including laboratories.

As this situation unfolds, it is possible that we will need to implement more extreme operational measures to promote social distancing to ensure the health and safety of our community. We are not at this point. Nevertheless, the CERT is planning for these scenarios in collaboration with offices across the campus. Should we need to implement a more significant scale back of on-campus operations, we will notify you with the detail of what these scenarios entail.

The WPI Coronavirus Emergency Response Team will continue tracking this evolving situation and both discussing and determining appropriate and prudent measures of prevention and response. We will keep the community updated as more information is available. We have no higher priority than the health and well-being of our community and it is that commitment that guides all that we do.

Finally, I must reiterate the responsibility that each of us has in keeping our community safe. Everyone should be following the preventive recommendations that have been shared previously on the coronavirus website for the latest updates and Frequently Asked Questions, and send additional questions to CoronavirusQuestions@wpi.edu. We will continue to update the site with new information throughout the coming hours, days and weeks.

Thank you for all you do for WPI.

President Leshin and
The WPI Coronavirus Emergency Response Team