March 4, 2020 — Guidance on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

To Bowdoin students, faculty, and staff,

I write to update you on developments and our planning and preparation related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Bowdoin is a special community where we take seriously our responsibilities to one another and to the broader world. While there are currently no known cases of COVID-19 on our campus or in Maine, the start of spring break means that many of us will be traveling. As we do, there are important steps we can all take to protect our own health and that of those around us. This will be particularly important as we return to campus after the break.

That’s why we are not permitting Bowdoin-sponsored trips (those trips funded by the College or for which the traveler receives reimbursement from the College) to countries with a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Warning Level 3 travel advisory. These countries currently include China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea.

For personal travel, it is vitally important that you let us know immediately if you stay in or pass through any of these countries. You can do so by filling out this brief form. In addition, if you have been in one of these CDC Warning Level 3 countries in the last fourteen days, please use the form to let us know immediately.

The list of CDC Warning Level 3 countries may very well expand in the days ahead, so please pay close attention to CDC travel advisories and use the form to let us know if your travels take you to or through any of these locations.

Other steps we can all take include the following:

  • Stay current on developments by checking your email regularly (the College will use email to send updates and advisories, even during the break).
  • Review the responses to frequently asked questions (FAQ) posted to the Bowdoin website (these will be updated throughout the break, as necessary).
  • Continue to follow disease prevention guidelines recommended by the CDC. These include washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least twenty seconds—a practice identified as the single most effective way to prevent illness. 
  • If you are sick, seek medical attention and stay home until you feel well.
    • Students—For students away on spring break—if you’re ill, please don’t return to campus until you are better. This not only helps you, it prevents the transmission of your illness to others, including populations in our community who may be at greater risk. If you are unable to return to campus, please notify your dean. Once you return, if you become sick, please advise the health center and your dean, and do not attend class, go the dining halls, practices, or meetings until cleared by the health center. Students who are ill may be asked to move to another room. We will work with students to get meals to them as needed.
    • Faculty, Staff, and Student Employees—Employees should not report to work if they have symptoms of an illness. Human Resources is developing a temporary framework to support those with minimal sick-leave accruals.
  • If you have health issues that put you at greater risk from COVID-19, please consult with the health center if you are a student or with your primary care physician or health care provider if you are a member of the faculty or staff. If their advice is that you avoid contact with others, please notify your dean, human resources, or your supervisor. We will work with you to accommodate these situations on a case-by-case basis.
  • For those planning to travel, please consult the travel advisories issued by the CDC and the US State Department. All Bowdoin-sponsored trips must be booked through Direct Travel until further notice, as this may be the only way to recoup the cost of a trip or to avoid change fees assessed by airlines.

Many individuals at the College are working to prepare for the distinct possibility that the COVID-19 virus arrives in our community. For example, one group has been dealing specifically with issues affecting students studying away. Another group is preparing to ensure the continuity of instruction at Bowdoin in the event that faculty and students cannot meet face to face. Other groups include parts of our Campus Emergency Management Team (CEMT), as well as the full forty-member CEMT that will gather tomorrow to continue to review and enhance our preparations and contingencies for dealing with the possibility of an outbreak of COVID-19 here. I am conferring daily with a small group of senior officers and our college physician to review the work we are doing and to determine how best to tackle any issues that may arise. We are also fortunate to have the advice of medical experts who are members of the larger Bowdoin community.

This is a challenging moment globally. In addition to the serious medical issues—about which we still have much to learn—individuals of Asian ethnicities around the world have been subjected to verbal and physical attacks for supposedly having some responsibility for COVID-19 by people motivated by fear, ignorance, or prejudice. Thankfully, there has been no sign of this at Bowdoin. We are a community that cares for one another and that comes together in difficult moments, and for that, I am deeply proud and grateful.

Thank you for taking the time to read this message and those that will follow, and for paying close attention to your health and to practices that will protect your welfare and that of others. While we hope for the best, we are planning for the possibility that the COVID-19 virus becomes a reality at the College. That way, we will be positioned to come through it in the best possible way.

All the best,

Clayton