March 15, 2020
Dear OU Community:
I write with an important update regarding the University’s response to COVID-19.
FIRST OU COVID-19 CASE – NORMAN CAMPUS
Today we received notification that a member of our Norman campus community tested positive for COVID-19, which is a situation occurring across America, including our universities. According to our preparedness plans, we will cooperate with Health Department officials in their efforts to track this individual’s recent interactions with others in our community. In accordance with Health Department procedure, all those impacted will be notified and provided guidance for next steps to be screened and, if necessary, self-isolate. I know all of us join together in hoping for a full and quick recovery for our community member.
In January of this year, OU established a Special Pathogen Preparedness Operations Team (SPPOT), which includes representatives from OU, OU Medicine, Inc., and the Tulsa and Oklahoma City County Health Departments. The group includes OU’s subject matter experts – public health professionals, epidemiologists, and physicians – and meets regularly, with frequent follow-up communication, and receives routine updates on COVID-19 data, clinic and department issues, screening activity, media activity, and training and communication needs.
In response to today’s news, through consultations with the SPPOT group and the Health Department, it was recommended the University close the Norman campus temporarily tomorrow to address the situation.
We are committed to addressing the matter and want to take advantage of the fact that no classes are being held during this week of Spring Break. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, we are issuing a five-day Norman campus closure from Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20. All “non-essential” Norman campus faculty and staff are not to report to work. If you are uncertain if you qualify as a “non-essential” employee, please contact your supervisor. The policy related to reporting leave time in the event of a campus closure due to inclement weather will apply. This directive only applies to the Norman campus and does not impact faculty and staff on the HSC and Tulsa campuses.
During the closure week, essential facilities personnel on the Norman campus will partner with a contractor who specializes in critical cleaning functions to deep clean the impacted areas on campus using disinfectants that kill the virus. Involved personnel will follow CDC guidelines as they perform this necessary work.
NORMAN CAMPUS RESIDENTIAL HOUSING
Residential housing on the Norman campus remains open; however, students who departed for Spring Break and are able to remain away from campus are encouraged to do so.
OUHSC AND OU-TULSA CAMPUSES
Each campus will continue to nimbly modify policies, procedures, and operations over the coming weeks as circumstances develop. The Health Sciences Center and our healthcare enterprise are bringing expertise to assist in the state’s effort to mitigate this pandemic.
Many Health Sciences Center colleges and programs in Oklahoma City and Tulsa are transitioning to online or other modified learning environments. Leaders at HSC will continue direct communications of updates to these plans to HSC faculty, staff, residents, and students.
We recognize that more cases are emerging in our communities, but that we can reduce the spread of infection by our individual and collective actions. As we have in all circumstances, we will work together with a sense of common purpose and care for each other. I am heartened by the way everyone in our community is approaching this unique and developing situation with resolved optimism and understanding.
We will continue to communicate regularly on the evolving COVID-19 disease over the coming weeks. As a reminder, you can stay up-to-date on our efforts and University guidelines by visiting coronavirus.ou.edu.
Thank you for taking special precautions to protect yourself and others.
Joseph Harroz, Jr.