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Coronavirus Information and Updates II

Posted on March 16, 2020
Coronavirus information and updates

By Ana V. Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH

Dear Dornsife faculty, staff, students, and friends:

As you know by now, our School in accordance with Drexel University policies is transitioning to remote work and all exams and classes have been transferred online for the spring term

The situation is rapidly evolving and the numbers in my last message are already woefully outdated.

On March 15, 2020, it was estimated that the COVID-19 virus had infected nearly 165,000 people worldwide with over 6,500 deaths attributed to the virus.

The numbers in the United States are changing rapidly. As of today (March 16, 2020), there had been over 3,800 cases reported in the U.S. including over 67 deaths.

As of March 16, 2020, a total of 9 cases have been confirmed in Philadelphia and 76 in Pennsylvania. It appears that community transmission is beginning to occur in our city, as the Commissioner reported that at least some of the new cases may have acquired the infection from infected persons who had not been previously identified as cases and may not have had symptoms. This is a sign that social distancing is becoming increasingly important to protect all of us.

In accordance, social distancing activities have been recommended by our city, the state of Pennsylvania, and the CDC.

Just this afternoon the city decided to close all non-essential business establishments and all non-essential city services as of 5 p.m. today (March 16) at least through March 29. This adds to the city ban on gatherings of 1,000 people or more and the recommendation against gatherings of 250 people or more. They also recommend that people isolate themselves if they are sick and stay 6 feet away from others. See the latest updates from the Philadelphia Department of Health.

Governor Wolf has also recently ordered a shutdown of all non essential Pennsylvania businesses for two weeks starting today. The state has also imposed non-visitor policies for correctional facilities and nursing homes. All Pennsylvania schools are closed for at least two weeks starting March 16. The City has announced meal pickup locations for students.

The CDC has recommended cancelling gatherings of 50 people or more for the next 8 weeks (with exceptions for businesses, schools and universities).

Commissioner Farley has announced that opportunities for testing are increasing in the city, and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health is recommending expanded testing to medical providers. This will provide valuable information to understand better the magnitude of the epidemic.

New requirements and recommendations will undoubtedly emerge over the next few hours and days. For now it’s important to (1) stay home and away from others if you are sick, and contact your health care provider if you have symptoms compatible with COVID-19 (fever and cough or difficulty breathing); (2) wash your hands frequently; (3) avoid gatherings whenever possible and leave 6 feet between you and other people when in any sort of meeting or around others. It is particularly important for those who are especially vulnerable to the virus (older people and those with underlying health problems) to minimize social contacts.

Please keep in touch virtually with friends and family as isolation is also bad for health. We need to support each other during these times.

These are difficult times. It is important that do our best to operate based on evidence and not fear. A silver lining is that, as has often been noted, crisis situations often bring out the best in humanity. I can already see this in our community.

Please stay safe and calm and support each other as we navigate these difficult times.

Ana V. Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH
Dean and Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology
Dornsife School of Public Health

Dean Diez Roux shared the latest on the coronavirus outbreak in a March 19 Q&A for Drexel Now:

Read a COVID-19 Q&A With Dornsife Dean Ana Diez Roux