University System of Maryland Prepares for Impending Spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in State of Maryland
Baltimore, MD (March 6, 2020) – At the direction of the Board of Regents and Chancellor Jay A. Perman, MD, the University System of Maryland (USM), its 12 institutions, and three regional centers have been preparing for the anticipated spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Maryland. Well before last night’s announcement by Governor Larry Hogan of three confirmed cases in the state, plans were already in progress throughout the USM to consider continuity of operations, including ways to avoid the interruption of academic study, travel policies, and the care of potentially affected students, faculty and staff.
“I'm grateful for the attention our System presidents and executive teams are paying to their emergency response planning—particularly their focus on the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff,” Perman said. “The collective strength of our System puts us in a better position than most to effectively manage threats like COVID-19, and it's terrific to see us putting that strength to work. I'm especially grateful for the medical and public health expertise provided by institutions like the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and the University of Maryland, College Park. While the situation is changing quickly, of course, I'm confident that we're taking judicious, proactive steps to meet this challenge head on.”
Since January, the USM has taken several proactive steps to prepare its institutions and centers for the impending spread of the coronavirus. This effort is being led by USM Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Joann Boughman. Among the steps:
- Information Sharing and Emergency Preparedness: Meetings have been held regarding COVID-19 prep with USM presidents, each supplemented by weekly information sharing sessions with senior campus executives in areas such as student and academic affairs, facilities, finance and communications. A special COVID-19 briefing by UMB medical and emergency-management experts was held for system presidents and key executives at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) on Feb. 20, and a successful, day-long tabletop response exercise was held for campus executive teams at UMB on March 4.
- USM Coronavirus Resource Website: In early-February, a special USM COVID-19 resource website was established to facilitate campus information sharing and decision making. The website includes the latest USM communications and decisions related to coronavirus, links to key state and federal health organizations and resources, and related material from USM campuses.
- Coordination and Information Sharing with State Officials: Chancellor Perman and the USM executive team have been in regular communication with key state officials, such as Maryland Secretary of Health Robert R. Neall, Maryland Higher Education Secretary James D. Fielder, and Russell J. Strickland, the executive director of the Maryland Department of Emergency Management. This collaboration has included sharing of both important information on COVID-19 and institutional response plans that have benefitted postsecondary institutions—public and private—throughout the state.
“Our first responsibility is for the health and safety of our students, staffs, and faculties. The response of Chancellor Perman and our USM presidents to this very fluid and difficult situation has been truly impressive,” said USM Board of Regents Chair Linda R. Gooden. “While no individual or organization can fully prepare for every situation, I feel we are in a very good place and certainly are demonstrating both our expertise and value to Governor Hogan, our legislative leaders, and the state as a whole.”
In the coming days and weeks, Boughman says the USM will be developing university protocols on the health needs of students, distance learning, travel, and major public gatherings on campus. Institutions will also be testing their continuity of operations plans (COOP) and considering options for the coming fall semester.
“I am seeing determined, sober responses to what is clearly a rapidly-evolving situation,” Boughman said. “It is our hope that our hard work now will not only help us meet this critical challenge, but also future challenges that are likely to come our way.”
Contact: Mike Lurie