Speeches & Commentary

WashU Response to COVID-19

Sunset behind Brookings Hall

As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, my thoughts remain with those impacted. We will continue to provide updates as circumstances evolve. I’m extremely grateful for each and every member of our community and the contributions you make to advance our mission to improve lives in service of the greater good. May we continue to embody that mission during this time and through our daily interactions and encounters, which serve to enrich both our human experience and our tradition of distinction.

From the July 30, 2021 message to the Danforth Campus community: We’re optimistic that we will be able to resume many of our cherished traditions this fall, and most importantly, that we can return to being the close, supportive and collaborative community that we always have been.

From the June 15, 2021 message to faculty and staff: With the aim of protecting our community and the patients we serve, and returning to full in-person teaching, learning, research and campus life in the fall, we will require all Washington University faculty, staff and trainees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

From the March 11, 2021 message to the university community: In the past 12 months we have proven time and again the resilience of our community, our deep commitment to caring for people, and our ability to act quickly and selflessly in support of the greater good.

From the November 18, 2020 message to the Danforth Campus: As we approach the final weeks of the fall semester, it is now time to turn our attention to spring, and what the next semester will look like at Washington University.

From the November 12, 2020 message to the Danforth Campus: Because of the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission due to personal interactions around the holiday, undergraduate students who choose to travel more than 60 miles outside of the St. Louis region will not be allowed to return to campus for the remainder of the fall semester.

From the November 6, 2020 message to the Danforth Campus: We are now heading into what could be a pivotal time period, and perhaps now more than ever, we must remain nimble and be prepared to shift our strategy.

From the October 5, 2020 message to faculty and staff: As you are aware, we have had to make some difficult decisions since this spring in response to COVID-19, many of which have had a direct impact on our faculty and staff. These steps were taken based on the information we had at the time, and now that we’re getting a clearer picture of our financial situation, we are cautiously optimistic that our outlook is improving.

From the August 24, 2020 message to Danforth Campus students and families: Our team here has been hard at work since spring and we are now in the final stages of our preparations for the beginning of the fall semester for the rest of our students, for whom classes will resume on Monday, September 14. As that date draws near, we wanted to provide you with an update on our planning.

From the July 31, 2020 message to the Danforth Campus: “Our plan is informed by science. We have made decisions based on all available data, and we will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation as it develops in the weeks and months ahead.

From the July 8, 2020 message to the university community:
For those who are now on campus, whether for short periods of time or for full days, there are a number of important steps we all must take to help keep our community safe and healthy.”

From the June 11, 2020 message from university leadership to faculty and staff:
“Looking ahead to the next fiscal year, the question we must now attempt to answer is how best to position the university to respond to the challenges that still lie ahead.”

From the May 27, 2020 message to the university community:
“In order to accommodate a slow and deliberate return to normal operations, we are making changes to our academic calendar, to allow for a phased approach to bringing students and faculty back to the Danforth Campus.”

From the May 12, 2020 message to the Class of 2020:
We will hold a Commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 on the Danforth Campus on Sunday, May 30, 2021, as long as conditions at that time allow us to do so safely.

From the May 8, 2020 message to the Medical Campus community:
“We must begin to think about the risk of another surge in the months ahead and likely again next fall. With the prospects of a vaccine not likely in the near future, protecting ourselves, our loved ones, and our community will once again depend to a great extent on public health countermeasures.”

From the May 7, 2020 message to the community:
We are working toward a phased approach to returning employees to campus. This will begin in June with a very small number of faculty and staff whose physical presence is necessary for managing essential laboratory research or remote teaching activities. We also continue to plan for the fall semester.

From the May 1, 2020 message to faculty and staff:
“After careful consideration and guidance from our infectious disease experts – and given the orders still in place in our local jurisdictions – we will not be making any changes at this time, and our alternate operations will continue until further notice.”

From the April 29, 2020 message in The Record:
“We are squarely focused on understanding the steps we must take now in order to allow us to welcome students back and begin our return to normal operations. While there are still a number of unknowns, rest assured that however we proceed, we will do so in a smart, strategic way, with the safety of our community as our very highest priority.”

From the April 20, 2020 message to faculty and staff:
“There are a number of additional steps that we must take now to preserve our financial resources and keep the negative impact on our employees to the lowest levels possible.”

From the April 17, 2020 message to faculty and staff:
“In the interest of transparency and keeping you informed, I am writing today with a series of important updates, with additional information to follow soon.”

From the April 17, 2020 message to the Medical Campus community:
“This virus, and our response to it, have revealed the extent to which we are guardians of public health, activated in times of crisis but always working behind the scenes, even while no one is paying attention.”

From the April 9, 2020 message to the Medical Campus community:
“To all of you — our doctors, house staff, nurses and other staff — words cannot adequately express our gratitude for what you are doing.”

From the April 2, 2020 message to the Medical Campus community:
“It is the most extraordinary thing to watch all of you, our faculty, staff, and students, harness your ingenuity and drive to meet this enormous challenge. And it is that same ingenuity and drive that will lead us through even greater challenges over the coming weeks.”

From the March 30, 2020 message to faculty and staff:
“It’s important for us to be forward-thinking and take reasonable steps to protect our financial security. With this goal in mind, as well as awareness of the challenges of on-boarding new employees during alternate operations, effective immediately we are instituting a hiring freeze for the Danforth Campus and the Central Fiscal Unit (CFU).”

From the March 25, 2020 message to the Medical Campus community:
“We are home to many of the brightest minds and the strongest spirits in medicine. We are rising to this unprecedented occasion with the same qualities we bring to every challenge: courage, intelligence, expertise, and compassion.”

From the March 23, 2020 message to the university community, alumni and friends:
“As we all are settling into this new phase of our lives, it’s a good time to take stock of where we are as a university community, and how we got here. Over the past two weeks, we’ve responded to the evolving situation in some rather astounding ways.”

From the March 20, 2020 message to the WashU community:
“No later than Monday, March 23 – or sooner, for those departments that have been able to make the switch quickly – we do not want anyone on campus, other than employees who are required to perform essential work that requires a physical presence on campus.”

From the March 18, 2020 message to the WashU community:
“I’ve learned within the past 24 hours that four members of our university community have tested positive for COVID-19. While this news is certainly troubling, and we are concerned for our employees and students, it is not entirely unexpected that we would have cases confirmed in our community.”

From the March 17, 2020 message to WashU faculty and staff:
“Yesterday I shared the incredibly disappointing news with our graduating students that we have made the difficult decision to cancel May Commencement, given the risk to our community as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve.”

Video message to the Class of 2020:
“This is, indeed, an extraordinary time, and we must continue to pull together and harness our collective strength in service of the greater good as we work quickly and diligently to flatten the curve and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
See the full March 16, 2020 message to the Class of 2020.

From the March 16, 2020 message to WashU faculty and staff:
“Our primary responsibilities at this time are to take care of ourselves, support our families, do all we can to slow the spread of the disease, and help the university maintain its essential role. In order to help us meet our responsibilities, the university is taking a set of major steps.”

From the March 13, 2020 message to WashU faculty and staff:
“It’s been a highly unusual week to say the least, and I hope you’re faring well during this unprecedented time as we navigate the daily turns of dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. As you’ve heard us say many times these past few weeks, our highest priority is to protect the health and well-being of not only our Washington University community, but the entire St. Louis community. Together we can contribute to “flattening the curve” of the spread of this virus across the country.”

From the March 11, 2020 message to the WashU community:
This is increasingly becoming a rather extraordinary time for us here at Washington University and in the St. Louis region. We’ve been giving a lot of thought to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in recent days, reflecting on the many ways it’s impacting our daily lives and, importantly, how we can best prepare for the days and weeks ahead to keep our community healthy and safe.”

From the March 9, 2020 message to the WashU community:
“As we’ve shared with you in recent days and weeks, we are closely monitoring the global outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as the situation continues to develop. We’re committed to providing you with the latest university updates and information, and will continue to do so. At this time, I also want to make you aware that, given the way the virus has spread globally and within the U.S. in the last few days, we are ramping up our response and putting new policies in place to protect our university community.”

From the February 13, 2020 message to the WashU community:
“At this time, I want to reassure our community that we have no cases of COVID-19 in or around the St Louis area. Further, the CDC indicates that the general public are unlikely to be exposed to this virus, and the immediate health risk is considered low at this time. We currently have faculty and staff on both Danforth and Medical campuses monitoring the situation and making recommendations.”