Racism is unacceptable. It plays an ongoing and corrosive role in our society, and we need to be honest about how bad things are before we can change. The protests across the country show clearly and loudly the legitimate frustration and anger of centuries of failure to be the society we should be.
Just over 100 years ago, we fought “the war to end all wars.” But wars did not end. Within 20 years, the world was again involved in another World War. Other wars followed―Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and countless smaller conflicts. On Memorial Day, we remember the sacrifices made by the roughly 1.4 million people who have given their lives in the military service of this country.
In the health sciences, we are dealing with a different pandemic scenario than most of the community. We understand more of the risks, know more of the statistics, hear about how much is unknown about the virus, and we either are on, or know someone on, the front lines.
Some of the struggles we are working through right now are very public. How do we protect healthcare workers during the pandemic? What are the best therapies to treat COVID-19? How do we redirect our research efforts to focus on this new and urgent challenge? One of our greatest tests is much less public, but no less important.
We were living in unsettled times before the pandemic shifted life as we knew it. So it shouldn’t be a big surprise that there is a visible split in the way members of the public are responding to the Stay at Home orders designed to slow the spread of COVID in our state.
We are beginning to be able to take steps toward restoring normalcy. This will not be a pre-COVID-19 “normal,” but a restoration of function while retaining all the lessons learned from this pandemic
We begin the month of May with the promise of beautiful weather ahead. This is the month where it is finally safe to begin planting the gardens of our imagination into ground that should remain warm. But, not yet. This weekend we still plan, and next weekend we plant.
I’ve become very aware that every 24/7 week translates into 168 hours. I know there are faculty, staff, certainly our students and residents, who are working many of those 168 hours at a pandemic pace. We do this with a sense of urgency as we engage with the coronavirus that has shut down much of our state and sent many home.
We take-off this last week of April with another clear mission on behalf of Minnesota: to rally the energy and resources needed to expand testing capacity for the state. Right now, our state leaders - and those of other states in this nation - recognize that without a broad based testing capacity to determine who now has and who has had the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, any initiatives to reopen our economy come with unknowable and significant risks.
I take great comfort from the quality of leadership in Minnesota. President Gabel has, from the first confirmed COVID-19 case, taken calm but decisive action that gives us every opportunity for a good outcome for the University. Governor Walz, also a strong and thoughtful leader, has consulted scientists and experts to develop and evolve the plan forward for Minnesota.
The one consistently positive impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had globally is on the environment. We have been given the opportunity to see what happens when we make the kinds of changes that can have significant impact, even if we made them for a different reason.
Based on statistical predictions, we can expect to see COVID-19 cases in Minnesota peak over the next seven weeks. This is what we have been calling "the surge." As we ready ourselves for these weeks, we have reasons to feel that in Minnesota we can expect this to play out much differently than we have seen, for instance, in New York.
At what point should we change the language we use to describe the pandemic and its impact? We are now through the first 30 shocked days. For many people, the energy generated by change has given way to the struggle of finding motivation in isolation, developing new routines without knowing how long they will be in use, or coping with the anxiety of wondering what the future holds for caregivers.
Risk is not evenly distributed in our society. While many of us can shelter at home, doing our part to minimize transmission of COVID-19 and its impact on our healthcare system, many of us cannot.
With the start of a new week, we focus not on “what will happen to us?” but on “what will we do?” Personal protective equipment continues to be a high priority. An alumni of the School of Design has shifted his company’s production to creating face shields for use in clinical settings.
I take it back. We are not preparing for a sprint, and we are not preparing for a marathon instead of a sprint. We are preparing for a relay race. We are all apart, but we are all in this together.
Today we mark a significant milestone. Exactly one month ago today, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Minnesota. In the health sciences, we have seen a phenomenal response in education, research, and clinical care.
There is an article in today's Star Tribune about predictive modeling for the progress of COVID-19. These models are critical to us as we work to understand what to expect. With so many models out there, I want to share some important insights from Dr. Brad Benson, Chief Academic Officer.
On this first day of April and with a clearer picture of the months to come, here are updates on our critical progress.
When our world is suddenly divided into on-site workers critical to health and safety and those who can safely work off-campus, our role as a University comes into sharper focus. We are a school, not only educating people for specific professions, but on how to be good, capable people. In some ways, there is no better time than a crisis to do this.
It is normal, when facing something like COVID-19, to look at the history of past epidemics. What we need to recognize is that, just as the speed and intensity of this pandemic is unprecedented, so too is the speed and intensity of the University's response.
We have talked about physical safety, mental resilience, innovation, self care, emotional health, and other issues we will face with COVID-19. Looming large over all of these are the moral and ethical tests to come, many of them for the first time. How do we prepare for this?
Think, for a moment, about grains of sand pouring through an hourglass. As each grain adds to the pile below, a familiar conical shape emerges. At certain points, the next grain destabilizes the pile and the cone shifts, but the conical shape re-forms again and again.
Governor Walz has issued an executive order telling Minnesotans to stay at home. The University has already asked that everyone work from home, so we are well positioned to support the Governor’s plan.
Thank you for your ongoing service to the University and the state. With your collective creativity, distributed brainpower, and most importantly focus, we have made inroads in testing new treatments and solutions for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the weekend, I had some time to reflect. I want to thank you all for being ambassadors of rationality, poise, and action, as well as for your mastery founded in clinical care, technology and science in which we deliver these.
It has been four days since President Gabel’s office issued the directive to work from home, and two days since that directive has been made mandatory. It has been a week since we announced our Rapid Response Research Grants to tackle the shortages of materials or supplies evident in our effort to treat COVID-19.
Here are some statistics for you to consider today: yesterday, there were 0 new local cases of COVID-19 infection in China; there were 475 deaths in Italy.
I continue to be impressed by those stepping up and channeling creative solutions to the issues around us. We have funded three Rapid Response Research Grants so far, and are reviewing five more.
In times like this, it is important that we are making decisions in a rational, confident, data-based way as our community adapts to changes in what must be done. Second to this by only a small bit is communicating these in a way that allows individuals to implement and follow new ways of doing business.
I am grateful to all our providers, staff and scientists who try harder than ever to provide for our patients: our three treatment interventions are underway. And even as we scale back non-essential and non-COVID-19 lab operations, essential research will continue.
Today, Governor Walz announced a peacetime State of Emergency for COVID-19. This will allow quicker response as needed. Governor Walz reiterated that we are prepared and thanked our front line healthcare workers.
Our clinicians are prepared – we train for this. Our hospital is the only federally-designated containment center in the upper Midwest. Our investigators have been quick to act and begin work on possible prevention and treatments, as well as develop a greater understanding of this virus.
All classes, including clinical rotations and experiences, are to be offered through alternative instruction for two weeks. We will re-evaluate weekly. This restriction does not apply to residents and fellows but only health science students learning in classes and clinical experiences.
The University is suspending all student education and study abroad programs in South Korea for the spring 2020 semester due to increased COVID-19 cases and concerns raised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. State Department.
We continue to closely monitor global public health concerns involving the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). As this issue continues to evolve, our goal is to provide you with any significant updates as they become available.