On Friday, March 6, 2020, Highline College President John R. Mosby released a statement about how the college is dealing with the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
Despite the fact that three other area colleges have suspended on-site classes (University of Washington, Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University), Highline College is still open and operating. Bellevue College, Lake Washington Institute of Technology, Cascadia College and Bellingham Technical College all recently announced longterm plans to close or go online.
No known cases of the virus have yet been found in students or on campus.
The college has activated its Incident Command System (ICS) to enable effective and efficient management of the COVID-19 response. The ICS is a structured response team to organize people from across the campus, to enable information sharing and problem solving.
“This will ensure campus stakeholders are involved in the response process and the campus is working as a cohesive unit.”
Here’s Mosby’s full statement:
Dear Highline College Community,
This has been an active and busy week for our community. I want to take a moment and thank our students, staff and faculty for your patience and understanding as we address this evolving coronavirus situation. For many, this is unchartered territory as our world is dealing with the outbreak and tragedy. I want to end this week with some updates about what to expect in the coming days and weeks.
Monitoring the situation
Highline College has officially activated our Incident Command System (ICS) to enable effective and efficient management of the COVID-19 response. The ICS is a structured response team to organize people from across the campus, to enable information sharing and problem solving. This will ensure campus stakeholders are involved in the response process and the campus is working as a cohesive unit. In addition, I’m in frequent contact with my fellow college presidents and local officials, state representatives and K-12 superintendents to ensure our campus receives information in a timely manner. It’s vital that information is shared and responded to immediately to ensure the safety and security of our community. You can expect constant updates from my office.
Living our values
COVID-19 is a global concern that can make anyone sick, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Highline is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for all who study, work or visit. In times of fear and uncertainty, there is often misinformation shared as a result of bias and, at times, discrimination and xenophobia. Unfortunately, there has been instances of anti-Asian bias and harassment in our society and on this campus. At Highline, we simply do not tolerate this behavior.
If you experience or witness any bias or harassment, report it to Highline Public Safety at (206) 592-3218. You can also report it to the Student Assessment and Information Team (SAIT). The goal of the SAIT is to take an informed, proactive and preventive approach to addressing potentially threatening behaviors.
Any Highline student in need of more personal support during this time is encouraged to contact the Highline Counseling Center at (206) 592-3353. King County Public Health has also created a site dedicated to anti-stigma resources.
Planning on campus
In accordance with King County Department of Public Health guidance, we encourage supervisors to provide telework options to employees whose job duties can be performed remotely without hampering operations or instruction.
If you have a medical condition impacting your ability to report to work, contact your supervisor and HR at [email protected].
Next week, Human Resources will send out information regarding sick leave and preparing for disruptions to business continuity, if necessary, in the event of a campus closure. While I don’t anticipate a closure, we want to be prepared and thoughtful in our efforts. Additionally, HR will provide reminders about FERPA to ensure we don’t violate federal laws or student privacy when speaking with parents or guardians.
Highline College will always follow the guidelines of the King County Department of Public Health in all matters related to the coronavirus.
Testing for COVID-19
Governor Inslee announced state plans to cover the costs of COVID-19 tests for residents without health insurance. Additionally, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler issued an order to Washington health insurers to cover required COVID-19 testing and provider visits without copays or deductibles. That order is in effect through May 4.
Important tip from public health experts: “… you generally need to be in close contact with someone with COVID-19 to get infected. Close contact includes scenarios like living with or caring for a person with confirmed COVID-19, being within six feet of a person with confirmed COVID-19 for about 10 minutes, or if someone with COVID-19 coughed on you, kissed you, shared utensils with you or you had direct contact with their body secretions.” (“What to Do If You Have Confirmed or Suspected COVID-19 or Are Worried That You May Have COVID-19,” King County Public Health, Public Health Insider, 3/5/20).
Caring for each other
Receiving these updates and hearing about coronavirus can be overwhelming and, for some, extremely stressful. Please know our campus is fortunate to have an incredible collection of students, staff and faculty that care for one another and a group of leaders who will always put Highline College first. I encourage everyone to take care of yourself, listen to your body and please err on the side of caution in all your activities. From washing your hands multiple times of the day to not sharing food or drinks, your habits have extraordinary power.
John R. Mosby, Ph.D.