DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > Preparations related to COVID-19

From the President: Update on DePaul's preparations related to COVID-19

(Image courtesy of the CDC)

The international emergence of COVID-19, also referred to as coronavirus, has introduced uncertainty into our lives. As we navigate this rapidly evolving environment, our top priority at DePaul is the health and wellness of all members of the DePaul University family.

COVID-19 is affecting people and communities across the world in many ways, directly and indirectly, including restricting travel, economic loss, experiences of discrimination or anxiety over threats to one's health or the health of our loved ones. I encourage everyone to be compassionate to one another, follow health guidance and seek information from reliable sources. You can find COVID-19 information and guidance from DePaul at

COVID-19 Planning and Response Task Force

DePaul administrators have been coordinating the university's COVID-19 preparedness efforts for some time now in collaboration with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and with the Chicago Regional Medical Officer at AMITA Health Medical Group.  (AMITA Health provides on-campus health services in Lincoln Park to DePaul students.) We also are learning valuable lessons from the responses of universities in urban areas where there are significant numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Starting this week, we have formalized our COVID-19 preparedness efforts by forming a COVID-19 Planning and Response Task Force. The group has already met and will be meeting daily as the situation continues to evolve.

This task force will lead information gathering and dissemination, communications and recommendations related to COVID-19.  The group will also coordinate contingency planning should the impact of COVID-19 on the university's operations become severe or prolonged.

Led by Jeff Bethke, executive vice president and chief financial officer, other task force members are:

  • GianMario Besana, associate provost for Global Engagement and Online Learning
  • Erin Berkowitz, president of Staff Council
  • Linda Blakley, vice president of University Marketing and Communications
  • Gisselle Cervantes, president of SGA
  • Caryn Chaden, associate provost for Student Success and Accreditation
  • Salma Ghanem, interim provost
  • Cheryl Hover, associate director of emergency management
  • Bob Janis, vice president of Facility Operations
  • Anastasia Katinas, senior associate general counsel
  • Bob McCormick, vice president of Information Services
  • Scott Paeth, president of Faculty Council
  • Stephanie Smith, vice president of Human Resources
  • Steve Stoute, chief of staff to the President
  • Shannon Suffoletto, director of Health Promotion and Wellness
  • Gene Zdziarski, vice president of Student Affairs

Ongoing Prevention and Preparedness Efforts

The task force will coordinate contingency planning to continue instruction and operations remotely if required.

Interim Provost Salma Ghanem sent a message last week to all faculty about relaxing attendance policies related to students' illness and developing remote teaching contingency plans so that classes can continue online if a closure occurs. We have no reason to believe a closure is imminent. No members of the DePaul community have been diagnosed with COVID-19. These measures are being taken to prepare the university to minimize the disruption to students if a closure does occur.   

DePaul administrators also are considering how other university functions would continue if the university's physical campus closes.

In terms of prevention, Facility Operations staff is performing daily antibacterial wipe-downs of surfaces in public spaces to include main entrances, elevator buttons and hard surfaces in washrooms. The staff also confirmed that their cleaning products are effective on seasonal influenza viruses as well as COVID-19.

The university has canceled all spring break study abroad trips and has placed on hold several other upcoming study abroad trips. We are monitoring the situation daily and will make additional decisions as warranted. 

In accordance with guidance from CDPH, DePaul instituted the following travel protocol: Faculty, staff or students returning from any country with a Level 3 travel alert, as determined by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), (China, Iran, Italy and South Korea as of March 9) should stay home and monitor their health for up to 14 days. If you are traveling, or returned from any country with a Level 3 travel alert on or after Feb. 28, please contact the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness at or 773-325-7129 as soon as possible. Absences for this purpose will be excused and alternate arrangements will be made for teleworking and online school assignments, if possible.

Help Us Keep Our Community Healthy

Take Care DePaul is a familiar refrain at this university, and there is no better time than now for following that advice. We each play a part in preventing the spread of communicable disease to others. The latest information from the CDC is available online​ and I strongly encourage you to follow the measures recommended by the CDC:

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.

Thank you for taking DePaul's prevention and preparedness efforts seriously. I pray we all have a healthy and successful rest of the academic year.