COVID-19 Update and Campus Plans

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

I write to provide an update on the global outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, a respiratory illness first detected in China in December. We are mindful of how worrisome this is for the national and global community and especially families who may be far apart geographically during this crisis. We have assembled a team, led by me, as Chair of the Senior Emergency Response Group, and including members of faculty and staff, to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis and plan for contingencies that may arise. We will keep the campus informed of relevant information as it becomes available. Bates continues to monitor this public health issue in close consultation with our clinical partners at Central Maine Medical Center and based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. While this is a rapidly evolving public health situation, according to the CDC, no cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the State of Maine.

On Campus

Staff and faculty from many parts of the college are working together to anticipate how Bates would address various scenarios with respect to COVID-19 and develop contingency plans. Staff members continue to offer information and support to our students from those nations most affected by COVID-19. Bates is prepared to work with international students and U.S. citizens who live abroad should their travel back to their home countries at the end of this academic year be affected by public health concerns.

The college is also mindful of the potential impact on our faculty and staff. We are asking staff to direct individual questions to their respective managers, and faculty to the Dean of the Faculty’s Office. Individual health-related questions should be directed to your primary care physician; questions about healthcare or insurance should be directed to your insurance provider or to Human Resources.

Study Abroad

As mentioned in a previous message to students, there are no Bates programs or students studying in China this semester. Staff in our Center for Global Education (CGE) are in contact with students participating in study abroad programs in other countries, providing support and guidance as needed. Last week, a program in Italy, which three of our students were attending, elected to suspend its program for the remainder of the semester. This program is helping students complete their coursework in the U.S. Bates CGE staff are working closely with these students, and will do so with other students should more programs be suspended.

CGE staff are collaborating with faculty and students participating in off-campus Short Term 2020 courses to anticipate and plan should there be disruptions, and developing proactive solutions for students who were planning to study abroad in Fall 2020 in countries that are most affected by COVID-19.

College-Sponsored Travel

We are closely monitoring travel information from the CDC to inform decisions related to college-sponsored travel. Those countries with a CDC Warning Level 3 are of greatest concern because they pose the largest potential risk of infection. With this in mind, the college has suspended any college-sponsored travel (defined as those trips paid for directly by Bates or for which the traveler receives reimbursement from Bates) to countries with a Warning Level 3. Currently China and South Korea are the only two countries in this category. This suspension will last until the CDC lowers its warning level for these countries, and will apply to any countries subsequently elevated by the CDC to a Warning Level 3.

Students, faculty, and staff with an imminent Bates-sponsored trip to a country with a CDC Alert Level 2 should consider postponing travel until the Warning level has been lowered. Staff whose college-sponsored travel is impacted should speak with their respective managers, and faculty should contact the Dean of the Faculty’s Office. While it is not typical for Bates to issue travel restrictions, we believe it is necessary to take steps to ensure the safety of our community. For anyone traveling outside of the U.S., we encourage you to consult the CDC website for country-specific information.


As always, community members play an important role in preventing the spread of respiratory diseases. CDC recommendations include:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick. (For Bates employees, the sick time policy is published in the 2019 Employee Handbook.)
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Hand sanitizer dispensers are available in many campus buildings.

Current information about COVID-19 is available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Medical staff at Bates Health Services will continue to monitor this evolving situation, following all available guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Bates Health Services and Central Maine Medical Center have a management plan should a confirmed case arise on campus.

We expect that this situation will continue to evolve and the college will provide updates as needed. Thank you for your attention to this information and for your patience as we work through these challenges together.


Geoffrey Swift
Vice President for Finance and Administration
Chair, Senior Emergency Response Group