University of Washington president Ana Mari Cauce should resign over COVID19 remarks

University of Washington president Ana Mari Cauce should resign over COVID19 remarks

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University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce should resign, following her remarks today, dismissive of the threat posed to the faculty and students at the university by COVID19, at an ASUW meeting.

Earlier an email was sent out to students, claiming the following:

“I write today to ensure you are aware of how the University is working with public health officials to be as prepared as possible to protect the health of the UW community.”

Today, Cauce made the following statements and more (some may be paraphrased), as reported by an ASUW member present at the meeting:

On the danger posed to personnel on campus:

“We are aware that virus may already be present on campus, but based on medical professional advice, we don't need to close campus.”

On the petition to close campus, with over 19,000 signatures:

“No, because infection isn't airborne. Being in same closed space isn't enough to get someone infected.”

This statement notably contradicts many claims by nations and organizations dealing with COVID19, stating that the virus requires airborne precautions, and that airborne transmission has not been ruled out.

For example: 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/disposition-hospitalized-patients.html

https://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_docman&view=download&category_slug=coronavirus-epidemiological-alerts-and-updates&alias=51757-14-de-febrero-de-2020-nuevo-coronavirus-covid-19-actualizacion-epidemiologica&Itemid=270&lang=en

It also seems to contradict the university’s own claims about the transmission of the virus:

(From the UW COVID19 FAQ: https://www.washington.edu/coronavirus/

“Although we have a lot to learn about this virus, it is currently believed that it spreads like other respiratory viruses- by people with the infection coughing and sneezing. These droplets are inhaled by other people or moved to the eyes, nose or mouth by contaminated hands.”

When asked on what the University plans to do regarding immunocompromised students:

“Working on it.”

Students are facing finals in less than two weeks, raising concerns over symptoms developing around this time. The school is well-equipped to handle remote instruction. Multiple schools in the area have transitioned to remote instruction for the next month at least. 

Furthermore, many students are concerned about travelling back to their families for spring break, members of which may be at risk due to age or pre-existing conditions.

Testing for COVID19 is cost-prohibitive to many students, costing approximately as much as a quarter’s tuition, and testing isn’t even readily available. The number of cases is severely underreported. 

The city of Seattle has declared a state of civil emergency and there have been multiple cases of members of the UW community showing possible symptoms of COVID19.

Many of the cases have been also seen in areas that see a lot of UW students commuting from to the Seattle campus. Buses and light rail are clearly potential health hazards with an infected population. 

Governor Inslee, when declaring a state of emergency, said that people should avoid large crowds. 

The Seattle campus has over 40,000 students.

Meanwhile, at the University of Washington, a professor sent out the following in an email to students, explaining why, even with symptoms of COVID19, he/she will be teaching the class the next day, as per UW guidelines:

“In light of concerns about the coronavirus I would like to inform you that I have been feeling sick since yesterday. I have symptoms that overlap with coronavirus such as cough, chest pain, headache, body aches and mild fever

……

Following UW’s guidelines there will be class today.

The above, the growing number of cases (reported, actual number may be in the thousands) in the area, the growing number of deaths in the area, and more are reasons that many students, faculty, and family members are concerned (see petition with over 19k signatures to close campus). Ana Mari Cauce’s remarks are not only dismissive of these concerns, but outright irresponsible and may lead to great illness or even deaths among the University of Washington community. 

Ana Mari Cauce needs to resign or immediately take responsible actions as the head of the school to minimize risk and damage to the students and faculty. 

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