COVID-19 Update From the Dean

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College of Engineering Staff, Faculty and Students:

Update: Campus closure and virtual instruction.

The university has made the hard decision to shift to entirely virtual instruction for the entire spring quarter. Our college goal will be to transition 100% of our coursework to a virtual mode for the spring. The department chairs, the faculty and I are reviewing all our spring class listings and discussing how they can be moved to virtual instruction. I know many of you are wondering how we will move courses like labs and senior projects to virtual instruction.  It will definitely present a lot of challenges and we will have to be creative in how we respond.  Our faculty are all Learn by Doing engineers, and we are working together to figure out how to meet our learning objectives and make sure you continue to progress towards graduation.  Once finals are complete, our faculty will transition to working on the migration of their spring quarter classes to the virtual environment.   This should all be complete by the start of the spring quarter on April 6th and you will hear from your professor a few days before class starts with details on the how the class will be conducted.   We have faculty in every department who are familiar with the different online tools who will be serving as mentors for those with less experience and the entire college is banding together to make this quarter the best possible learning experience in the conditions that we find ourselves in.

I understand that this is a stressful and anxiety provoking situation, with more questions than answers at this point, but the entire CENG community is coming together to meet this challenge.    Once you finish your finals, please take some time during the two weeks break to practice self-care. As always, I am available for questions, and we are collecting common questions to be published in a FAQ on our website.  We will send a link when it has been completed. Also, just as the Rec Center and Library will be closing, CENG will be closing our machine shops, labs and similar spaces for now. 

Update: For more information on what to do if you think you have COVID-19, please scroll down or visit the Health and Wellness site here.

President Armstrong released a video message which explains that Cal Poly will make a final decision on whether to go to entirely or partially virtual classes no later than March 25.  Regardless of whether we move to alternative methods of instruction, we will delay the start of the spring quarter to April 6.  We will also be moving to a nine-week quarter.  I know this is a long email, but please take the time to read it.

I know you all have questions and concerns about this evolving situation.  Our goal is to ease this transition should it be necessary while we act in the safety of our entire university community.  I have been in constant contact with your department chairs and program directors over the past few days, and we want to be as transparent as possible around this situation.  Here I can update you on a few questions and concerns, and I can assure you that your chairs have been collecting your questions and forwarding them to me so that I can try to get answers.  Please continue to ask questions of your chairs and we will continue to respond. Please remember that this is a rapidly evolving situation and is literally changing hour by hour. We appreciate you understanding as we work under challenging situations. I first want to assure you that there is no plan to entirely shut down the university or impact payroll.

While no decision has been made yet on alternative methods of instruction for spring, it is prudent to begin planning now in the event we move to 100% virtual for a period of time.  I have already started deep conversations with the chairs and program directors about our approaches if we need to make a transition to alternative methods of instruction for spring.  I have also asked the chairs to work with you as each department reviews its spring courses and determines how many can be moved to a virtual course. Ideally we will want to move as many as possible, including labs, using creative approaches.   We are engineers and problem solvers – let’s use that creativity now.  We need to identify if we have classes that simply can’t adapt to any alternative method of learning, and if so, which courses and how many do we have? We are also working with the chairs to asses our resource needs and need for workshops on virtual tools.  Many have asked about our ZOOM capacity. Our understanding is that the university Zoom license has virtually unlimited access for sessions that include up to 200 people at a time.  We also have a few licenses for sessions with 200-1000 participants.  ZOOM is hosted by Amazon servers and there is not a lot of concern about simultaneous use nationwide. There are also not a lot of concerns about issues of bandwidth on campus.  We will begin offering workshops on the use of online tools next week and will continue through spring break and the following week.

We also need to note that while there are no cases of COVID-19 in SLO county, the risk goes up as we have people from outside the county traveling to visit us.   Many large events including Open House, Poly Cultural Weekend and the Rodeo are being cancelled.  All tours will immediately cease.  The Dean’s office  needs to work with the entire CENG community to review every event that is being planned by faculty, student groups,  departments or the college that involve non Cal Poly attendees.  If you are planning ANY event see your chair for instructions on how to submit it for review.  We need to collect all upcoming events immediately – by the end of the week if at all possible.  There is a rubric that the EOC team is using with public health officials to determine which events must be cancelled.  Those with local SLO attendance are most likely to proceed.

As noted yesterday, we also need to review all planned travel.  If you are planning ANY domestic travel, please go ahead and fill out the “essential travel’ form (a new revision is attached below) and send it for signature.  Please understand that approval will be based on overall risk to the entire university community as well as the type of event.  Thus some conference or student travel may be approved while others will not depending on location.  Conversely, those visiting Seattle and any country with Level 3 exposure will be asked to self-quarantine for two weeks prior to returning to campus. 

Overall, know that this is an evolving situation which is changing literally hour by hour.  We will continue to update you as the situation changes.

Let’s put our Learn by Doing approach to work as we adapt to this new situation.

Amy S. Fleischer, PhD  (She/her/hers)
Dean, College of Engineering

More CVID-19 Information:

Health and Wellness

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronavirus is a type of virus that causes diseases ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory disease. The CDC reports that patients with this novel coronavirus have mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. Severe illness is more common in people with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems, as well as older adults. 

COVID-19 Testing

Campus Health and Wellbeing is working with San Luis Obispo County Public Health for appropriate testing for COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) and direction for patient care, quarantine or isolation, should it be indicated. CHW will collect specimens to be sent to the county public health laboratory as indicated. Specimen collection for COVID-19 is performed by swabbing nasal and oral cavities. All testing is performed at the county public health laboratory.

Testing Criteria

The County of San Luis Obispo Public Health Department is now able to test specimens. In order for a patient to be tested, they must be referred by a provider. The Cal Poly Health Center serves as the provider for students. Employees are asked to call their healthcare provider. 

As of March 12, 2020, current direction from county public health is: 

  • Test for influenza.  
  • If testing is negative, order additional respiratory panel if indicated (depending on symptoms and other factors). The respiratory pathogen panel would rule out other pathogens. 
  • COVID-19 testing would be performed at the same time if symptoms and other factors are present. 
  • The estimated turnaround is dependent on the volume of testing. Currently, the county can run 50 tests a day. 

See county public health’s provider health advisory on in-patient testing for COVID-19 testing: 

https://www.slocounty.ca.gov/getattachment/efcad8d8-f0f8-4c1f-8d7d-a88932895c5e/03-13-2020-nCoVUpdatedProviderNotice-In-Patient-Testing.aspx 

Currently, there is no charge for the COVID-19 test.

When to get help

If you have a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath:

  • Stay home from school/work if you are having symptoms
  • Wash your hands and stay well hydrated/drinking fluids
  • Cover your cough, and avoid close contact with others

Call your healthcare provider to make an appointment.

  • Students: please schedule an appointment by going online via the portal, https://myportal.calpoly.edu, or calling Campus Health and Wellbeing at 805-756-1211.
  • Faculty and Staff: please contact your personal medical provider.

Mental Health Resources

We are here to support you. Cal Poly students can contact Cal Poly’s Counseling Services and 24/7 hotline at 805-756-2511.

Faculty and staff can contact the Employee Assistance Program for confidential counseling services (available to employees and their families) at 800-367-7474, or visit https://afd.calpoly.edu/hr/employee-resources/work-life.

The Cal Poly College of Engineering understands there has been an enormous amount of turmoil and transition due to Coronavirus (COVID-19). As we continue offering support to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, we also continue providing critical updates as well as college highlights. Ours is a college full of creative and bright engineers and staff. For more information on COVID-19 visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For more information on how Cal Poly is responding to COVID-19, visit the Cal Poly Coronavirus website Coronavirus website.

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Coronavirus Update and Resources