Opinion

How MIU is responding to coronavirus

John Hagelin
John Hagelin

To the leaders and residents of our Fairfield community:

I know that everyone in the community is concerned about the spreading coronavirus, and many have asked me about the actions we are taking here on the MIU campus, where we have students from around the country and around the world.

So let me update you on the measures we have taken and continue to take to help forestall the spread of the virus. I want everyone to know that we are taking all possible precautions to protect the health and safety of everyone in our MIU and Fairfield community.

Our university leaders have been working in consultation and coordination with multiple people and agencies — the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Jefferson County Health Center, the Jefferson County Public Health department and JCPH administrator Chris Estle, and Mayor Connie Boyer — in taking proactive measures to minimize the health and safety risks to our MIU campus and broader Fairfield community.

Here are the major steps we have taken so far. They all aim at minimizing contact with anyone who may have been exposed to the virus and prevent the introduction of COVID-19 into our community.

• Spring break — We cancelled Spring Break to prevent students and others from traveling to impacted areas and potentially bringing the coronavirus home.

• Travel restriction — We have implemented a campus-wide travel ban outside of Jefferson County for all students and employees.

• Online teaching — As of Monday, March 23, our campus classes have shifted to online, in-room instruction. Students needing extra support can meet individually or in small groups (fewer than 10) with their teachers in spacious classrooms, while following strict guidelines of social distancing. Unlike some schools, we cannot simply close, because the majority of our students are international and cannot travel home. In addition, most of our American students are independent of their families and legally reside on the MIU campus.

• Restricted dining hall access — We have restricted access to our dining hall to MIU students, faculty, and staff only (no outside guests). We have opened up additional dining rooms to allow — and enforce — appropriate social distancing, and we have staggered our lunch shifts for the same reason. We have added professional food servers, so that diners do not touch serving utensils. All diners must also sanitize their hands using an array of new sinks and/or hand sanitizers stationed outside the dining hall entrance.

• Campus events — We have cancelled all on-campus gatherings and events with more than 10 people.

• Recreation Center closed — We have closed the Recreation Center. To help compensate for this loss, we are developing a “Virtual Rec Center” with online fitness sessions, dance classes, yoga, and more, and encouraging everyone to stay fit.

• Doing business remotely — We have encouraged students and everyone else to conduct business remotely wherever possible by phone or email, including communications with Financial Aid, the Enrollment Center, Student Life, local banks, etc.

• Social distance — We are continuously reminding everyone to follow the recommended social distance guidelines of at least six feet from others and avoid mingling in groups.

• Self-care education — We are educating the community in common-sense measures of self-care. These include getting plenty of sleep and meditating regularly to keep the immune system strong, washing hands often with soap and water, no handshaking or hugs, etc.

• Staying home if unwell — We are requiring people to stay home if they are not feeling well and to remain there for at least three days after all symptoms are gone.

• Isolation and quarantine facilities — We have set up and equipped four residential facilities to serve as quarantine stations for those who are sick or who might possibly have been exposed to the coronavirus.

• Auxiliary facilities — We are gearing up to serve the community by creating auxiliary hospital facilities and beds for any citizens of Jefferson County in case the Jefferson County Health Center becomes overwhelmed.

• Maharishi School — Is now closed until further notice.

We are constantly monitoring the situation and updating our policies as appropriate and/or as required by the authorities. You can find the most up-to-date policies on our website at miu.edu/coronavirus.

If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions, please write to us at virusinfo@miu.edu.

I am proud of the tireless, dedicated work of our faculty and administrative leaders over these past weeks, and the spirit of concern and cooperation displayed by everyone in our campus community.

And I am grateful to our City of Fairfield, to Mayor Boyer, to our Jefferson County Public Health Department Administrator Chris Estle, and to all those in our community who have been working with such dedication to safeguard the health of our community. We are indebted to all of you.