COVID-19 Community Update – February 29, 2020
Dear Northwest University community member,
We received reports today of the first death in the United States from Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), and it occurred here in Kirkland at EvergreenHealth Medical Center. We have been tracking the disease carefully, and with its emergence in our own backyard, we must now address it very seriously.
The health and safety of every member of our community is always our highest priority, and we want to take every responsible step to counter the outbreak of disease. Here are some basic principles you should keep in mind while thinking about COVID-19:
- According to the New York Times, “Though the virus can be deadly, the vast majority of those infected so far have only mild symptoms and make full recoveries.”
- The disease can be fatal in perhaps 2% of cases, with older people and people with compromised immune systems being at greater risk. The person who died of the disease in Kirkland suffered from chronic illness.
- The virus does not always cause symptoms in people who have been infected, and some people can carry the virus for some time before showing symptoms. That means that it will be very hard to keep people from being infected. It would be an overreaction to cancel university classes until we have evidence of an outbreak of COVID-19 in our campus community.
- Unfortunately, the outbreak has now reached a global stage as well as a local one, so everyone must take this situation seriously.
- We absolutely care about the lives of every person in our community and want to do everything we can to ensure the best possible outcomes. We also do not want to live in fear and allow it to lead us to poor decisions.
In view of these perspectives, we recommend the following actions:
- Pray for God’s help to guide governments, agencies, institutions, families and individuals to act wisely and effectively to minimize exposure to the disease. Pray also for a divine intervention against the disease.
- Stay home if you have any symptoms of respiratory illness and avoid close contact with others. Professors will work with students who must self-quarantine to ensure that they can complete their classwork. If you are an employee, we will work with you to ensure you have enough sick leave. Don’t be a “hero” by coming to work—be a hero by staying home if you are sick.
- Wash your hands frequently (although not obsessively) for at least 20 seconds, especially after shaking hands with people. It takes about 20 seconds to sing the Doxology, so take advantage of the opportunity to praise God in the midst of this circumstance (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Cover your coughs to avoid spreading the virus.
- Minimize physical contact with casual acquaintances, substituting a polite nod or other gesture instead of handshakes.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick. If you are needed as a caregiver to someone suffering from the disease, do not return to public activity until you are cleared by medical personnel to do so.
In the meantime, the University is preparing so that classes will be available online through Panopto or Zoom for remote participation in case any quarantines or shutdowns are necessary. We will ultimately be guided by the King County Health Department and other governmental agencies that have authority over public health. We encourage everyone to keep up to date on the disease at the CDC and King County Health Department websites. Do not be unduly alarmed by media hype, but compare any stories you may read with these official sites. The Wellness Center is also prepared to offer you any counseling or assistance you may need. Do not let this situation create undue stress in your life, since stress weakens the immune system and only makes you more vulnerable to infection. Help is available if you are suffering from stress.
Many have asked already what the university intends to do about student travel. For most trips, it is still very early to make a decision. We will be in touch in a timely fashion with each group that is scheduled for travel, and we will place the highest priority on health and safety.
Finally, I want to urge everyone to take this epidemic seriously and from a position of faith and confidence in God. Even in the case of a pandemic, it is very unlikely that anyone at Northwest University will die from this epidemic. We are Christians, and we do not live in fear, but rather in confidence that God has our future in his hands and will preserve our bodies, souls, and spirits unto eternal life.
Joseph Castleberry, Ed.D.
President, Northwest University