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Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania
by Frederick Steiner, Dean and Paley Professor

Dear students, faculty, and staff:

I’m writing to update you on the steps being taken at the Weitzman School in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). I understand that many of you have concerns and want to assure you that we are working closely with Penn leadership to protect the health and wellbeing of our community.

Enhanced Environmental and Cleaning Procedures
The Office of Operations and Planning, with guidance from the University, has intensified the housekeeping procedures at all Weitzman buildings to hospital-grade standards, so that frequently touched surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, light switches, countertops) are treated with appropriate cleaning solutions and with greater frequency. We are also providing disposable wipes at the computer, fabrication, and photography labs, and the printing/plotting facilities so that commonly used services can also be cleaned by students, faculty, and staff. Hand sanitizer that meets Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines is available on multiple floors in Meyerson Hall, and we have ordered additional supplies to be available at our other buildings. Because of increased demand, sanitizer is on backorder and we expect it will be delivered after Spring Break.

Travel Guidelines
Effective immediately, all University-affiliated travel to China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea is suspended in accordance with CDC guidance because of the heightened risk to travelers to these countries. (The CDC is generally considered to be the leading authority on the coronavirus in the United States.) We strongly recommend that you avoid any personal travel to these countries. If you do travel to any of these countries, we require 14 days of self-isolation before returning to campus. Information about self-isolation can be found on the Penn website. Please register all Penn-related travel so that we will know where you are and can provide resources in case of an emergency.

As spring break approaches, we ask that you weigh the necessity of any upcoming personal travel that is not to China, Italy, Iran, or South Korea (Penn-related travel to these countries is prohibited), and understand the risks involved. The Weitzman School is permitting organized, group international travel for two studios to Ireland and Colombia over Spring Break, as these countries present a low risk of community transmission, according to the CDC.

Follow Healthy Habits
As with any communicable disease, working together we can minimize the impact to our community by following a few simple guidelines in our daily routine.

  • Stay home if you’re sick. If you have symptoms of acute respiratory illness, you should stay home until you are free of fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.8 degrees Centigrade).
  • Wash your hands throughout the day for at least 20 seconds using soap and running water.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, or with your upper sleeve if you don’t have a tissue.
  • We will be posting signs throughout Weitzman buildings to remind you about these habits and provide additional guidance.

Stay Informed
Because the situation is evolving quickly, the University has set up a webpage about COVID-19 with answers to common questions and links to campus resources like Student Health, Counseling and Psychological Services, and Campus Health. This page will be updated as the University issues new guidelines. If you are not already subscribed to receive UPennAlert electronic notifications, I recommend that you do so by visiting the Office of Public Safety website.

As you know from Provost Pritchett’s recent email, a University-wide task force has been charged with reviewing—and updating as needed—Penn’s existing pandemic planning procedures. It is led by Dr. Benoit Dubé, Chief Wellness Officer, and Michael Fink, Deputy Chief for Tactical and Emergency Readiness of the Penn Police, working with experts across campus and coordinating with the CDC and other government agencies. You can expect more updates via email as conditions warrant.

Finally, I would like to remind you to be compassionate toward classmates and colleagues. Some in the Penn community are understandably worried about their friends and family back home in China, some are unable to travel home or return from being abroad, and some are facing discrimination and bias here on campus. The Offices of International Student and Scholar Services and Immigration and Integration Services have produced a video that offers helpful reminders about treating everyone in our community with respect and consideration.

Have a good Spring Break and stay well.

Fritz

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