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Dear Johns Hopkins Faculty, Students, and Staff:
We are facing an increasingly challenging moment as COVID-19 has moved from an isolated and seemingly distant outbreak to a global pandemic that is now clearly among us.
The reality of the rapid spread of this virus calls upon us to acknowledge how starkly daily life across the world has changed. It also underscores the urgent need to step up the vigorous interventions aimed at keeping ourselves, our families, and our wider communities safe and healthy.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 infection within the Hopkins family is an esteemed colleague at Johns Hopkins Medicine. At present, our colleague is self-isolated at home, faring well, and receiving appropriate care and monitoring from our infectious disease specialists. We are working with local public health authorities to communicate with anyone who may be at risk from contact, and we are requiring those at risk to self-quarantine for the recommended 14 days.
Across the Johns Hopkins Health System, we also are beginning to treat a small number of COVID-19 cases that require in-patient care, and we are anticipating and preparing for the almost certain likelihood that there will be many more cases of infection in our area and among members of our community.
Consistent with our mission at Johns Hopkins, this is a moment to be resolute in doing all that we can to slow the transmission of the virus. While it appears that the severity of the disease varies substantially by age—with healthy children and adults under 40 much more likely to avoid life-threatening outcomes—it is the more vulnerable among us who must be foremost in our thinking, regardless of whether we ourselves have any discernible exposure or symptoms. Every one of us must commit ourselves to following scrupulously the public health guidance for social distancing.
In this vein, Johns Hopkins has taken a number of extraordinary steps to reduce the population density of our campus buildings and make transmission of the virus more difficult. We have shifted to remote learning and urged all students who are able to leave campus and remain at home. We have instructed our employees to work remotely to the greatest extent possible. And we are taking the unprecedented and difficult action of ramping down significantly on-campus lab-based and clinical research activities.
In all my years in higher education, I have never experienced a moment that has required so much of a university community so quickly—as we change how we teach, learn, conduct research, and care for our patients; where our students live and are educated; how we maintain the vital functions of our university; and how we congregate, support, and encourage one another. I know that the pace and magnitude of required change will affect each of us differently. But truly none among us is immune from experiencing some level of increased anxiety and stress.
So, even as you take all precautions to safeguard yourselves and your community, I urge you to seek the support you need not only from friends and loved ones, but also from our university. Though we are in uncharted waters, ours is a place that is, at its core, here to serve, and this includes assisting one another in our moments of greatest need.
If you need assistance—whether navigating the challenges of our changing education and research enterprise or managing the psychological toll of this experience—we have available support services and, above all, the desire to help. If you are an undergraduate student, you can contact the Student Outreach and Support Office or access support through wellness.jhu.edu. Graduate students, faculty, and staff can also find resources on our Hub COVID-19 Information Page, by accessing the mySupport Program or wellness.jhu.edu, and by contacting Human Resources, your department liaison, or manager.
At this moment, we cannot predict precisely the course and impacts of COVID-19. But as we continue to monitor it closely, guided in our decision making by the best and most current public health guidance, we can also take inspiration from our university’s history.
During the influenza pandemic of 1918, our public health experts, clinicians, and nurses—guided by William H. Welch, the founding dean of our School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health—played an instrumental role in national efforts to manage that crisis and provided knowledge, care, and hope for so many close to home and around the world. It was a moment of visionary leadership that profoundly shaped the nascent character of American medicine and public health, as well as the extraordinary place that is Johns Hopkins. I am fully confident that our contributions in the weeks and months ahead, including critical COVID-19-related research and expertise, will be no less consequential.
In closing, let me thank each and every member of our community—all who will teach our students remotely, support the continuation of critical research, and daily carry out the essential operations of our university—for your resilience, compassion, and resolve. And let me express our collective admiration and appreciation to the many Johns Hopkins’ physicians, nurses, and health system staff who are now on the frontlines of this infection and who carry the solemn responsibility of ministering to the medical needs of our community. We stand in awe of what you do each and every day, and wish you strength as we confront this pandemic.
You will continue to hear regular updates from me and other university leaders as our decision making in response to COVID-19 evolves.
As always, please take good care of yourselves and your loved ones.
Ronald J. Daniels
Johns Hopkins University