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COVID-19 Update: Guidance as Some Return to Campus

May 15, 2020

Dear members of our Saint Louis University community,   

Earlier this week, city officials outlined COVID-19 infection-prevention procedures that must be in place Monday, May 18, to protect the health of our students, staff and faculty whenever they are on our St. Louis campuses.  

We are preparing plans to slowly and deliberately reopen our campus for work. All of you who are working from home, please keep at it, as trying as that may be for many of us. 

In a University community where we live for and with others, each of us must abide by several critical public health protocols for the foreseeable future. Though you or I may not be part of an at-risk population, many who we know and care about are. The following public health practices apply any time, indoors and outdoors, whether we are working, studying, living, relaxing at or visiting North Campus, South Campus, the Law School and non-clinical settings of SLUCare. They also must be utilized in all common areas of our residence halls, including hallways, restrooms and dining facilities, and on our shuttles. 

An emergency University policy regarding face masks will be issued soon. It will provide more details about when and where face masks are required.

All units and divisions will be providing cloth face masks to their essential, non-clinical staff who are working on campus. Other staff, faculty and students who are visiting campus (picking up a delivery, for example), and students who are living on campus should wear a cloth face mask of their own, provided it meets CDC standards. As plans are implemented to gradually return staff and faculty to campus, more cloth face masks will be made available. 

Currently, fewer than 500 essential, non-clinical staff are working on campus each day. They include staff in DPS, Facilities Management, Student Development, HR, and ITS. We are expecting that about 50 students will live in our residence halls over the summer. All must abide by these practices. SLUCare and School of Medicine faculty and staff may be directed to adhere to other public health protocols unique to the delivery of healthcare. 

I want to underscore our appreciation for our local governmental officials. The City’s order provided much-needed clarity to the University’s responsibilities as the St. Louis area begins reopening the local economy while remaining vigilant to prevent disease spread. 

We understand that some staff and faculty are itching to return to their workspaces, but the fact is that may not occur for several weeks. Reopening guidance will be distributed to VPs and Deans next week. They will need time to prepare their reopening plans and submit them for review.  

We must go about reopening our campus with thought and care. We cannot risk creating our own COVID-19 hot spot. That would put lives at risk and set back our reopening by months. We must do all we can to protect those essential employees who have been keeping our campus safe, clean and ready for our eventual return. So, please be patient. 

Those who live through historical events are seldom aware of it in the moment. It is only years after the fact upon further reflection that we realize we were part of a once-in-a-generation event.  

When historians inquire how SLU responded to this pandemic, I hope that they will discover what I have witnessed in all of us — a community that, when faced with endless opportunities to turn inward and allow fear to consume us, chose a different path. We chose the path of kinship, generosity, and service. Upon hearing the boundless uncertainty, suffering, and moments of joy, they will see that we chose the path of responding with a resounding, “we feel that too.” 

They will not have to look long to understand the meaning of OneSLU. 

May God bless you and Saint Louis University. 

Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.

Previous Updates to the SLU Community