Protect and Inform Students, Faculties & School Employees Living on Campus During COVID-19

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While we appreciate the University's around-the-clock efforts to protect the community against the threat of COVID-19, we, the students currently living in graduate residences, are deeply concerned about the safety and health of all individuals staying on campus after hearing about the possible use of some non-empty student residences as quarantine spaces without notice to current residents in these buildings. Therefore, we are writing this petition to request (1) separate self-quarantine spaces for confirmed and suspect cases, as well as those quarantined for preventive purposes, (2) increased transparency about the university's decisions relating to COVID-19, and (3 ) increased effort to popularize skills and knowledge of disease prevention.


The aim of this petition is to protect the entire Stanford community as much as possible and reduce the panic among all members living on campus. It is worth noting that individuals who are carrying the virus do not necessarily show any symptoms, especially at early stages, but are still able to pass on the virus. All populations, including young people, are susceptible to risk of infection and can develop into critical conditions. Thus, the risk of infection is greatly underestimated by a large number of people. Living in the same building without any precautionary measures would almost certainly intensify the risk of speed spread of COVID-19.


Given the significant risks falling on all students, faculties and school employees, especially those living on campus right now, we demand that the administration adopt the following approaches to protect the Stanford community:

 

1) Any identified individuals with close contact to the COVID-19 virus should be quarantined in centralized facilities separate from ordinary student living quarters.

The administration should not assume it “safe” to place individuals under quarantine into an occupied residence building just because the individual is not showing any symptoms. Studies and experiences have shown that some people carrying the virus can show very little symptoms, and chances are high that these people could pass it on unknowingly. (For example, please see here: https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/03/16/coronavirus-infected-people-without-symptoms-are-driving-epidemics-fast-spread-says-new-study/ https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/14/health/coronavirus-asymptomatic-spread/index.html

Inter-mingling self-quarantined individuals with a population without known contact with COVID-19 cases is a blatant disregard for our health and safety. Although most graduate living quarters provide individual bathrooms, there are no practical means to ensure that individuals under quarantine would not use the elevators, lounges, laundry, and other common spaces in the building. Furthermore, it is possible that the virus could spread through the sewage and ventilation system. We simply do not understand the virus enough and having exposed individuals in the same building with a healthy population can lead to rapid community spread.


According to recommendations according to China's experience, as presented to the WHO (Source: https://files.covid19.alliancebrh.com/pdf/6.Annex%203%20Protocol%20for%20Management%20of%20Close%20Contacts%20V5.pdf individuals in close contact with known COVID-19 cases should be quarantined in centralized medical observation areas. These medical observation areas should be “a relatively isolated area far away from densely populated areas” and with its own septic tank. Most already occupied graduate residences are far from meeting these requirements.


We suggest considering large isolated spaces not currently occupied, such as the new EV buildings close to completion, fraternity / sorority buildings, or Stanford Guest House. Vacated undergraduate housing can also be used for self-quarantine purposes, as long as each student under self-quarantine is guaranteed exclusive access to one bathroom. This may require placing only one student on each floor of the undergraduate building.


2) Warn students that they might be occupying the same or nearby residential building with someone who has been in close contact with the COVID-19 virus.

We cannot make informed decisions to protect ourselves without being informed about material development of the university's decisions. The level of precaution that students would take can differ drastically if they are made aware of the university's specific quarantine policies. It is one thing to know in general that the virus could be living among us, and a very different thing to know that the apartments or the building next door is currently being used as quarantine spaces. The psychological effect as well as the resulting behavior change cannot be underestimated. 


Moreover, individual decisions about precautions are personal, but they have collective consequences on the Stanford community and it is Stanford's responsibility to encourage bail. 


To this end, we urge the administration to keep students informed whenever individuals are placed into any residences for the purpose of self-isolation, as well as specific steps taken to ensure that those under quarantine would not leave their individual quarantine spaces.


3) Adequately inform the Stanford community about the risk of the virus, especially the risk for young people and the risk of contracting the virus from persons not showing any symptoms. 

It is the university's responsibility to correct misinformed optimism about the severity of COVID-19. Most emails we received from the administration have adopted an overly optimistic tone.


The current fatality rate for COVID-19 is ten times that of the flu, and hospitalization rate is as high as 15%. Cases are flooding into the medical system and we face severe challenges of an overburdened medical system (Source: https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-act-today-or-people-will-die-f4d3d9cd99ca Among those hospitalized for severe respiratory difficulties, many are in their thirties and thought they could not be harmed by COVID-19. Sharing these specific information helps raise community awareness.


Moreover, we are repeatedly reassured that our health and safety will not be at risk because the administration has quarantined those showing symptoms and tested positive for the virus. These reassuring tones are problematic because they falsely imply that risk of contracting the virus is negligible when we are in contact with individuals not showing any symptoms. The administration should explicitly warn students that the virus can spread despite not showing any symptoms, and thus more effectively encourage students to stay in their respective residency and practice social distancing.


In general, we urge Stanford to popularize knowledge and skills of disease prevention to the general student population.

In general, we urge Stanford to popularize knowledge and skills of disease prevention to the general student population. Here are some helpful resources to share with the Stanford listserv:

Corona Virus: Why you must act now (https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-act-today-or-people-will-die-f4d3d9cd99ca

CDC Advice on Disease Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html

WHO Advice on Disease Prevention (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

How Canceled Events and Self-Quarantines Save Lives, in One Chart (https://www.vox.com/2020/3/10/21171481/coronavirus-us-cases-quarantine-cancellation?fbclid=IwAR0263F0x3Hc_60CoIvF59YTJ-r1gSCWJwrZwqwvOQ0imGY2Kk-yjwAAjRs

New York Times Reporter on What We can Learn from the China Experience (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3gCbkeARbY&feature=youtu.be

 


On a final note, our petition for separating self-quarantine spaces to student housing on campus is in essence to help curtail the spread of the virus at our best aggregate efforts. Due to the 'shelter-in-place' ordinance published on March 16, 2020, in the indefinite near future, all people living on campus are required to stay in their respective residences regardless of their health. Intermingling healthy residents with individuals under self-quarantine at this time significantly increases risk of a community spread. As mentioned above, graduate student housing has shared laundry, mail pick-up area, and elevators. It is impossible for residents to avoid these communal areas during their regular course of life. Graduate students and school employees also cannot afford to leave the campus upon short notice in the same fashion as that of undergraduate students. Thus, the university should make it a priority to ensure that the current on-campus housing areas remain safe. We would love to see Stanford back to normal as soon as possible, and we believe protecting its student body still living on campus is the key step towards this goal.