March 10: Coronavirus Update

Merrimack College will extend spring break through Sunday, March 22 in effort to mitigate spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Dear Merrimack College Community,

As the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to evolve, College Leadership and the Merrimack College Task Force continue to meet daily in order to continue efforts aimed at mitigation and the safety of our community. While no one in the Merrimack community has tested positive for COVID-19, the college is following, where appropriate, the guidelines outlined by Governor Baker, the Mass Department of Health and the CDC.

What makes Merrimack College as a community unique is that we all look out for one another. In the coming days, each of us will need to be cognizant that our actions impact others - especially if you do not feel well.  It is essential that we protect each other and mitigate the spread of the disease, by notifying the task force and staying home if we feel ill.

Thus, out of an abundance of caution, the college has made the following decisions:

  1. The college will extend spring break through Sunday, March 22 and delay the return of students until that date. As this is a fluid situation, this date may change. Should the date change, the college will send an update to the community. Students who have specific housing questions or concerns should contact the Dean of Students at deanofstudents@merrimack.edu or 978-837-5175, however, the extension of spring break means the dorms are not open for general residence. All administrative offices remain open and available.

  2. The college is, as many institutions are, exploring remote/online learning should such measures need to be implemented. The college will take the additional week to follow the developments of COVID-19 and plan for this possibility. An email to all faculty will be sent from the Task Force regarding meetings on Thursday and Friday of this week with the main topic being the potential of remote/online learning.  

  3. Those employees that feel that they are at risk due to underlying health conditions (such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, pregnancy), please contact Human Resources for additional instruction. Additionally, the college will support employees who must take sick time or who choose to work from home due to illness. Employees who must stay home and have questions about the use of sick time during this period should contact Human Resources at humanresources@merrimack.edu.

  4. Effective immediately, Merrimack College is prohibiting all college-sponsored international and domestic travel until further notice. This prohibition extends to all faculty, staff and students. We recognize that in some extenuating circumstances, canceling or postponing college-sponsored international travel may be highly problematic for some faculty. For that reason, faculty and staff may pursue a case-by-case appeal process for international travel by reaching out to the Task Force. Additionally, we continue to strongly discourage students, faculty and staff from personal travel to high-risk destinations. If you are unsure if you are traveling to or in a high-risk environment, please email the Task Force.

  5. Italy remains the only study abroad program that has been canceled. A limited amount of students studying abroad in other locations are being closely monitored by the Task Force should the spread of the virus impact their locations. Students studying abroad are encouraged to carefully heed the CDC and U.S. State Department travel warnings when traveling to other locations over weekends or breaks. The college continues to support any student studying abroad who has a concern for their safety or would like to finish their semester back in the U.S.

  6. All campus-wide events with an attendance of 50 or more are canceled through April 6 (30 days from now). No decisions have been made regarding the March 29 Accepted Student Day as it is still several weeks away. This decision will be further discussed and re-evaluated as needed.

  7. Athletics is reviewing the remaining Spring season schedule with the focus on minimizing team travel in order to protect students and staff. Additional modifications in regard to student travel and games are expected over the next several days.

College cleaning

  1. As stated in the college’s first email regarding COVID-19 on January 31, 2020, Merrimack has been making special efforts to increase cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surface areas in all academic buildings as well as social common areas. This has included electrostatic spraying, which began in the Fall semester, a process that involves applying an electric charge to a disinfectant liquid in order to cover surfaces to kill viruses and bacteria. Finally, the college has also deployed extra hand sanitizing stations across campus for the use of all community members. 

Ways to stay healthy 

The college urges everyone to follow the prevention guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The college will be following the below guidelines as official policies moving forward:

  1. Don’t shake hands. Use a fist bump, elbow bump, or other creative greetings that don’t involve touching
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  3. Wash your hands often for a minimum of 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  4. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer available in your backpack, handbag, car, and your residence to use after touching potentially contaminated objects 
  5. Travel with tissues packs in case you need to sneeze or cough
  6. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as cell phones, doorknobs, light switches, remove and game controllers, and computer desks
  7. Use disinfectant wipes on gym equipment and public scooters and bikes

If you are feeling ill or know someone who is feeling ill:

  1. If you are feeling ill, stay home and call your Primary Care Physician (PCP) and the Task Force. If you do not have a PCP, please contact the Task Force who will connect you with a medical provider.
  2. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw away in the trash
  3. Keep your distance (approximately 6 feet) from those who are ill
  4. Don’t share water bottles, utensils or cups
  5. Avoid crowds in poorly ventilated areas

The college will continue to send updates and share resources as this situation continues to evolve. All updates will be made to www.merrimack.edu/coronavirus.