Thursday 1 October 2020

Email to all staff and students

Covid-19 update for our community - 1 October 2020

Dear colleagues and students,

I am writing to you all with an update following York’s Outbreak Management Advisory Board yesterday. This group - which includes the University - is carefully managing and coordinating our City’s response to the pandemic.

We heard from Sharon Stoltz as the Director of Public Health at City of York Council. She outlined that although Covid-19 cases in York are low compared to the region and nationally, there has been a rise in the number of positive tests across the City.

Whilst the City has not been named as an area of concern on the national coronavirus watchlist, it is possible this could change in the coming weeks, and additional local restrictions could be introduced.

In the interim, we are continuing as a City to press the Government for additional testing capacity locally. The new testing facility on our campus is a big part of this, and opens today for appointments for those with symptoms. The Board also reiterated the absolute need to act as one community and work together to slow the spread of the virus and prevent further measures being imposed.

For now, we echo comments from the Board about being grateful to all those self-isolating whether following a positive test, awaiting a test result, or as a consequence of others testing positive in the same household. It is important to note that the Director of Public Health indicated that a lack of social distancing, and social contact and households mixing indoors, are the primary cause of the spread in the City. We need to play our part in limiting the spread that is happening this way.

As for the University, we know we have, and should continue to expect, positive cases within our community. We have been preparing carefully for this in collaboration with the City Council, the NHS and the other higher and further education institutions in the City. We have an important part to play in helping the City-wide effort.

As of this morning, we have 16 active positive cases in our University community (comprising over 18,000 students and over 4,000 members of staff), all of whom are self-isolating along with their households. We currently have no evidence to suggest any of these cases are linked to transmission on campus. We will publish regular updates on positive cases on our coronavirus website to keep our community informed. We are seeing more students self-isolating too, either because they have symptoms and are now seeking a test, or because someone in their household is positive or symptomatic. Ensuring rapid access to tests and supporting those who are self-isolating remains a key priority for us, to help track and trace the spread of the virus.

Our track and trace team has moved quickly into action around the positive cases, instigating early contact-tracing support and liaising closely with the City Council’s Public Health team, and we've been in contact directly with individuals who need to take action.

For each positive case, the University will be taking a number of actions. These include using information on timetabling, accommodation data, and attendance data at venues to identify potential contacts and support contact-tracing in the City. We will continue to liaise with Public Health colleagues on who needs to self-isolate in each case, and to implement any further interventions they recommend, for example additional deep cleaning. And we will ensure we give good and prompt support to all students who need to self-isolate.

I will remain open and transparent with staff and students about cases in the weeks and months ahead, but I will also reiterate that we have prepared intensively for this. Covid is an unwelcome fact of life and we have to deal with it. We all need to work hard and look after each other, and without fail, help manage these cases with care and compassion.

And above all, it is more important than ever to follow the guidance, which will make all the difference in keeping people safe and stopping the spread of the virus:

  • Washing our hands regularly

  • Wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces

  • Staying 2m away from people not in your household

  • Self-isolate and ask for a test if you have symptoms

Thank you

Best wishes