To Deerfield Families, February 27, 2020

February 27, 2020

Dear Deerfield Families,

As Spring Vacation approaches and news about the illness caused by the coronavirus, now called COVID-19, continues to emerge, we are reaching out with some information to help prepare our community for upcoming travel. As you know, the news is changing rapidly every day—from an increasing number of cases in Italy, South Korea, and Iran to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statement about the potential for future community outbreaks in the United States. We recognize that, no matter where you are in the world, this is an uncertain and unsettling time. Our hearts go out to everyone who is being impacted by this virus.

Here at Deerfield, we are meeting regularly regarding COVID-19 and monitoring developments from the CDC, US State Department, and World Health Organization (WHO). We’ve also been in direct communication with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) several times over the last week. As we process these updates, we always keep the health, safety, and well-being of our students as our foremost priorities.  As of today, the MDPH continues to report that the risk of COVID-19 transmission on our campus and in our region remains low. That said, we continue to work proactively to keep our campus community healthy, closely follow the guidance of MDPH, and prepare for a wide variety of possibilities in the coming weeks and months.

At this time, our primary focus is on ensuring that all students have travel plans for March break that will allow for a smooth and healthy return to campus. The CDC has recently added and escalated certain country-specific travel advisories, and these advisories could influence the US Government’s restrictions on travel in the coming days and weeks.

In order to help us provide the best support and guidance for travel from and to campus, please pay particular attention to the Vacation Travel Form, which your student should have submitted to the Student Life Office by Wednesday, February 26, so we are aware of their planned itinerary.

As the situation evolves, we are aligned by the shared priority of student safety and well-being, and to that end, we offer the following guidance based on recommendations from the CDC, WHO, US State Department, and MDPH.

General Care for the Community:

Most fundamentally, we ask all members of our community to continue to practice commonsense good hygiene.

  • Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds;
  • Use hand sanitizer;
  • Cough into one’s elbow or a tissue.

Even after the upcoming break, it is far more likely that any student with fever and/or respiratory symptoms will have the flu or some other common cold virus rather than COVID-19.

Spring Vacation School-Sponsored Trips:

Following the guidance of the CDC and International SOS, at this time, all of our school-sponsored Spring Vacation travel programs for Athletics and the Center for Service and Global Citizenship will take place as planned. We will continue to monitor all updates daily and prepare for contingencies. None of the destinations of our school sponsored travel programs currently have any CDC COVID-19 alerts. Should anything change, we will reach out to participants and their families, and we will not hesitate to cancel travel should that become necessary.

Spring Vacation Itineraries and Potential Travel Restrictions:

We encourage families to refer to the advice, guidelines, and COVID-19 travel alerts provided by the Centers for Disease Control. Please check the CDC website  often because it is updated regularly as new information is made available. As of today, the CDC lists the following country-specific travel advisories where varying degrees of documented community spread of COVID-19 are present:

  • Warning Level 3: Avoid Non-Essential Travel: South Korea and mainland China (excluding Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan)
  • Alert Level 2: Practice Enhanced Precautions: Italy, Iran, and Japan
  • Watch Level 1: Practice Usual Precautions:  Hong Kong
  • Other areas with risk of community spread of COVID-19: Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Singapore

We ask you to please be aware that the US Government may, in the interest of public health, increase its travel restrictions for these areas (and potentially others) in the coming weeks (as it did for visitors from mainland China on February 3, 2020) with little notice. In turn, these decisions by the US Government could affect a student’s ability to return to campus after the break. This situation is evolving; we do not know if and when travel advisories might change or how the US Government might alter immigration restrictions or quarantine guidelines in the near future.

Therefore, we encourage all our families to carefully consider these advisories because we do not know what travel restrictions may be mandated by the US Government by the end of our break. We do want all our families to know that we are here to support you and your child, and we will work with you for as smooth a transition back to campus as possible on March 22. We encourage all families with students traveling outside of the US during break to check the CDC website  for updates often to see which countries are displaying active community spread of COVID-19. Later today we will be individually emailing families with addresses in any of the countries listed above to offer our support and confirm travel plans.

Student Illness Prior to Their Return to Campus:

As always, if your child becomes ill prior to their return to campus, please consider a delay so they can fully recover before reengaging with the daily rigors of school.

  • If your child falls ill over the break and has been to a country listed on the CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel website in the past 14 days, please contact the Student Life Office prior to their return to campus;
  • Over the break, if your child is with someone who has been to a country listed on the CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel website in the past 14 days and that person becomes ill, please contact the Student Life Office prior to their return to campus;
  • If your child is in contact over the break with someone who is known or suspected of having COVID-19, they should not return to campus and you should reach out to your local health care provider and then the Student Life Office to discuss next steps.

Potential US Government and MDPH Responses:

Based on the evolving nature of federal agency recommendations and the potential expansion of visitor restrictions by the US Government (beyond what is currently mandated for visitors from mainland China), it is possible that restrictions and required public health responses may change.

  • For example, if a student was to travel from a country with known community spread of COVID-19 and the MDPH considered them to be a public health concern, they might be required by US officials to undergo additional screening, self-isolation, or even hospitalization.
  • If there is a situation where the MDPH, CDC or US immigration feels there is a significant public health concern and recommends self-isolation or other heightened degree of observation and monitoring, the Academy cannot accommodate this practice on campus, and we ask families to be prepared with contingency plans if this requirement is made upon entering the United States. 

We understand the anxiety and concern surrounding this virus, and our thoughts remain with all those affected by it. Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out to us here at Deerfield if we can offer support, guidance or reassurance; we welcome that opportunity. In the meantime, we continue to monitor this dynamic situation and will be in touch with you again with any additional updates and guidance before the end of March break.

Thank you,

Amie Wilmer Creagh
Assistant Head of School for Student Life

Bear Benson
Director of Medical Services