University novel coronavirus (COVID-19) update

Mar. 5, 2020

This message was sent by the University President, Marc Johnson, and Medical Director, Cheryl Hug-English, MD, MPH to students, faculty staff and other personnel at the University of Nevada, Reno.

To the University Community,

The University continues to understand and share the concerns of our students, faculty, staff and our community regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and we remain committed to your health and well-being. We recognize that the situation is dynamic and evolves each day, with new information and understanding that informs the health and safety protocols issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Washoe County Health District. In response to the rapidly changing nature of our understanding of the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we want to update you on developments on our campus since last week.

First though, as the global spread of the virus reached our western region in recent days, it became clear Nevada would not remain untouched by the coronavirus. As of this morning, March 5, it has been reported and confirmed that southern Nevada has its first patient who has tested positive for the virus. Other parts of the country are also reporting an increasing number of confirmed cases. Deaths in the country from the virus remain low, yet remind us of the seriousness of this virus and the importance of following proper health practices.

The University has preventive measures and controls in place to support the health and safety of our University community. We continue to review and adapt our planning and strategies as more is learned every day. The University has created a Novel Coronavirus Information Page, which will be updated regularly. The page contains the latest information and includes a variety of sources, as well as tips for faculty, students and staff regarding issues that could arise from coronavirus.

For our University community, we continue to emphasize:

Preparedness: As a reminder, our administration and Issues Management Response Team continue to hold meetings throughout each week and are coordinating closely with our county and state agencies regarding coronavirus, its spread and what the University can be doing to promote the health of the people on campus and throughout our University community.

We are actively engaging with statewide and regional health/medical partners in the Washoe County Health District, Nevada State Division of Public and Behavioral Health and the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory, aligning and prioritizing health resources.

Alignment and collaboration: This week, in conjunction with the CDC, Washoe County Health District requested that the University follow new guidelines from both organizations that stipulate that all individuals returning from or through China, Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea, must be self-quarantined for 14 days after their return.

In accordance with the latest guidelines from both the CDC and the Washoe County Health District, the University has informed students and staff who recently had their University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) studies cancelled that they are all to observe a 14-day self-quarantine upon their return to the United States. USAC called these students and faculty home out of an abundance of caution, which mirrors actions taken by institutions across the country and internationally. Medical experts and personnel from the University Student Health Center will maintain daily contact via phone or text message with these individuals to assess for the possible onset of symptoms. These medical professionals will provide appropriate health information and guidance, should symptoms develop. The University is also helping students affected by the cancellation by offering academic and financial advisement.

If you know someone who is in self-quarantine, please consider supporting them through emails and texts, but respect the quarantine; do not visit them in person.

Suspended University Sponsored Travel Abroad: We have currently suspended all university-supported travel by faculty, staff, students, guest speakers or visiting scholars to, from or going through China, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Japan due to the CDC and Washoe County Health District 14 day self-quarantine requirements.

Other Travel Abroad: We’re monitoring alerts from the U.S. State Department and the CDC regarding non-essential travel. In addition, any organization, unit, program, department or college or school hosting guest speakers or visiting scholars from foreign countries in the coming months should also be aware of the CDC’s traveler information. Questions on faculty travel should be directed to the Provost’s Office.

Spring Break Travel Abroad: Given the dynamic nature of the outbreak of novel coronavirus, students, faculty and staff who are planning on personal travel overseas during the upcoming spring break are strongly encouraged to follow the latest guidelines for travel by visiting CDC’s traveler information. Please carefully weigh the risks and benefits of any international travel, stay actively alert and monitor changes and developments that may affect your plans. Monitor travel advisories daily, including potential restrictions on border crossings or closed borders. Prepare for the possibility that countries that you visit could decide to implement travel restrictions with short notice, impacting your ability to return to the United States, and to campus. The 14-day self-quarantine period for certain countries could change.

Be aware if you choose to go on personal travel to or through China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, or Japan, you will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon your return before returning to campus, work or classes. Faculty and staff will be required to use sick leave or annual leave and follow university policy on finding substitutes for classes. Students will not be given special arrangements for homework, attendance or tests.

Flexibility: For faculty, the University recommends that instructors offer students understanding and accommodations such as makeup exams, alternate assignments, or alternate weighting of missed work due to illness. If needed, you can explore the use of existing remote teaching tools and online learning by consulting with Teaching and Learning Technologies (TLT).

Even in the absence of coronavirus on our campus at this time, we must be mindful that students, who have already just negotiated a round of mid-terms, could be understandably anxious or stressed about uncertainties regarding the outbreak. Listen carefully to your students’ concerns. Offer resources when appropriate. Keep the lines of communication open. In addition, this is a good time to think about preparing for any situation that could disrupt regular schedules. Think about your own expectations as an instructor for the semester, and what you might need to do in the event you have to refocus your course goals due to unexpected events. Flexibility is be a must for all of us.

Health, Wellness and Prevention:  We also need your help. The best line of defense against novel coronavirus is to use the “best practices” associated with the CDC’s prevention guidelines. There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Everyday preventive actions include:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and 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% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • For information about handwashing, see CDC’s handwashing website.

If you are sick
First, it’s important to emphasize that, so far, the vast majority of people who have become ill with COVID-19 have experienced relatively mild symptoms, such as fever and cough, and recovered from the illness.

If you are sick, you should take steps you normally would when sick, including focusing on caring for your health, not attending class and contacting a health-care provider, if you feel you need to. Students on the University campus may contact the Student Health Center at  

(775) 784-6598 as one option. Please call ahead before visiting any health-care provider so that they can provide you with guidance specific to your symptoms.

University leadership and faculty are working together to ensure that if you miss class due to illness, opportunities will be provided to make up missed work. For more information, see the University’s FAQs.

We encourage you to monitor the University’s Novel Coronavirus Information Page, which is being updated regularly. The page contains the latest information from a variety of sources, as well as tips for faculty, students and staff regarding issues that could arise from coronavirus.

In addition, to help you promote healthy habits and share relevant information about the Coronavirus, the University community is encouraged to download this suite of informational flyers regarding coronavirus. You will find an informational sheet, flyers, posters, and an infographic, as well as a file of recommended social media accounts and online resources.

In all instances, you should consult with a relevant expert for guidance specific to your circumstances. In particular, please consult the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, which provides updated information regarding this topic.

Again, we want to remind you that it is very important to keep in mind the worldwide impact of this virus and the effect on their friends and family all around us. Further, it’s a timely reminder to avoid stereotyping or stigmatizing any individuals or groups, and treat all people with respect and empathy.

There continue to be a number of unknowns, but we will continue to communicate with you regularly regarding this global event. Along with government and health officials, the University urges people to stay calm and is taking steps to prepare.


Marc Johnson, Ph.D.
University of Nevada, Reno
775 784-4805

Cheryl Hug-English MD, MPH
Medical Director
Student Health Center
775 784-6598