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Coronavirus Update

Message from the Chancellor

March 6, 2020

Hello Colleagues,

The purpose of this communication is to provide information regarding the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and college efforts to plan ahead in the event we have an outbreak in town. We now know this is a real possibility given the Center for Disease Control’s announcement that the virus will likely crop up across America. Given the CDC’s warning we are planning  now for any possible disruptions due to an outbreak.

With whom are we coordinating?

I spent Sunday morning (March 1) meeting with Chancellor Oakley and community college presidents from across the state discussing how to prepare for such an outbreak. The State Chancellor’s Office has been working with the Governor’s Office and will be providing guidance to College of the Canyons and the other 114 colleges statewide on how to respond to this rapidly evolving issue. In addition, we are coordinating with L.A. County Public Health, the City of Santa Clarita, and the local school districts.

  • College of the Canyons will work with and take direction from the State Chancellor’s Office along with state, federal and Los Angeles County health officials in the event of an outbreak.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to closely monitor the coronavirus outbreak first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019.
    • The U.S. State Department recommends no travel to China due to the spreading outbreak in that nation. 
    • The official guidance for all California agencies continues to come from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Information provided by CDPH
    • The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has also posted updated guidelines for colleges and universities. Among its recommendations is the development of institutional action plans in the event of increased community transmission of COVID-19. COC is following these recommendations, and, with the formation of a campus task force, has taken action to reduce our exposure. To date, there are no known cases of the disease at College of the Canyons.
  • As a precaution, Governor Newsom on March 5 declared a “state of emergency” to mobilize public services in case of further spread. The Governor further reported that there are more than 94,000 cases reported worldwide, with about 3,200 deaths; the vast majority of them in China. In the U.S., 128 cases have been reported, including nine deaths in Washington state out of 32 reported cases. In California, 53 cases have been reported, with one fatality, and 9,400 people who have flown internationally are being monitored.

What else are we doing?

  • COC has formed a task force that includes administrators, facilities and maintenance personnel, human resources staff, faculty, classified staff, communications staff and me. This group is helping to gather information, formulate, prepare and implement COC’s response, and strategize on how to keep students and employees informed.
  • Planning is under way to formalize a contingency plan to allow COC to move as much instruction online as possible in the event of a campus closure. The college has hired two cleaning crews that will start Monday. Watch for both the day-shift and night-shift personnel in orange vests doing their best to sanitize high traffic areas.
  • The college is purchasing supplies needed to help curb the spread of the virus, including disinfectant, tissues and more. While hand sanitizer is currently unavailable, we are nevertheless doing our best to secure needed supplies.
  • COC college leadership is proactively developing communication plans to help inform students, faculty, and staff to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses such as COVID-19. These plans include:
    • Supplying tissues to college campuses;
    • Increasing the schedule of cleaning and sanitizing areas where students, faculty and staff congregate;
    • Temporarily increasing custodial staff through the duration of the concerns around COVID-19;
    • Developing a website to provide continuous updates and Frequently Asked Questions for staff, faculty and students.
    • Developing and distributing informational email and fliers focusing on healthy habits and links to additional resources.
  • A communication effort is underway to educate the campus about basic prevention measures, such as frequent hand-washing and staying home when sick. You should have seen some of these on COC’s website and social media channels.
  • We will work to continue the work of updating the District’s Emergency Response Plan to include protocols for issues such as travel restrictions; cancellation of classes, events, athletic competitions or performance; and the protocol response should students, faculty or staff be diagnosed with COVID-19.

Context

The best thing we can all do to prepare right now is to know the symptoms of coronavirus and how to prevent it. Symptoms are flu-like, and include coughing, sneezing, and difficulty breathingIf you or anyone in your department experiences these symptoms, STAY HOME. Even if the symptoms seem mild, do not come to campus or go out in public if you feel unwell. Encourage unwell students to stay home as well. 

Practicing good hygiene remains critically important at this time. All members of the campus community are urged to follow these guidelines:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then immediately throw used tissues away.
  • Disinfect any frequently touched objects and surfaces such as phones and light switches.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

Yes, I’ve now said “stay home” twice. Self-quarantining is by far the most effective way of keeping the coronavirus contained. While everyone’s dedication to their work at COC is appreciated, we’d appreciate you not coming to work when you are sick. Even if you have a mild fever of 99 degrees, that is enough to warrant quarantining yourself at home.

Information flow

If there is suspicion of an active COVID-19 case on campus, faculty, staff, and students are to contact the Student Health Center by phone at (661) 362-3259. The criteria are: fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath with history of international travel in the past 14 days or close contact with a confirmed case. When the Student Health Center is closed, faculty, staff, and students are to call the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health directly at (213) 240-7941 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday) or (213) 974-1234 (after hours) and follow their instructions. 

More information and updates on the coronavirus will come as needed and available. In the meantime, we are updating the News section of our website with fresh information, posting on social media, and posting messages around campus to encourage prevention and symptom familiarity.

COC encourages you to stay informed with the latest information on the outbreak and to continue to practice healthy habits to prevent the spread of illness. For science-based, updated information, we recommend the following:

Stay safe, Cougars. Wash those paws often, and stay home if you are unwell.

Dr. Dianne Van Hook
Chancellor


Distributed March 6, 2020