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3/15/20 Coronavirus (COVID-19) update from SCO President, Dr. Lewis Reich

Everyone,

Events have continued to unfold at a rapid pace related to the national emergency response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Public and private institutions are on the frontlines helping the nation flatten the infection curve to keep cases from overwhelming our healthcare system’s capacity to assist those most at risk, including seniors and those with underlying chronic health conditions.

In consultation with our senior leadership and other institutions, Southern College of Optometry has decided to prioritize public health safety. As noted in previous communications, while no COVID-19 cases have been reported at SCO, the increasing number of infections poses serious risks to students, employees, and others in clinical settings.

Taking into consideration the public health risks to clinical eyecare delivery, we have a number of critical updates to communicate:

  • The decision has been made to suspend all clinical assignments in The Eye Center, University Eyecare, FocalPoint, and MobilEyes and in-person laboratory teaching, effective immediately and until further notice.
    • University Eyecare and FocalPoint will be completely closed until further notice.
  • Things could change extremely quickly, so everyone must regularly monitor emails, texts, and social media updates in this unfolding situation
  • Effective Monday, March 16th, lecture attendance will no longer be optional, all lectures will be online only until further notice. Students may hear from course instructors with additional details. The college will closely monitor and work to ensure a smooth transition to this method of teaching.
  • SCO students should not attend their in-person courses, clinic rotations, or labs until further notice. Students should not come onto campus unless otherwise notified.
  • The Eye Center will suspend regular patient care. Steps are being taken to notify patient care appointments.
  • A volunteer team of faculty members and limited staff will be on hand in The Eye Center to triage emergency care only. The idea is to help keep patients from flooding hospital emergency rooms if we can be of assistance.
  • SCO recommends that all students and employees do not attempt to travel to reduce the opportunity for exposure to COVID-19. Everyone should practice social distancing.
  • Employees should not come onto campus, with the exception of those who may be requested as needed to assist to volunteer. Unless you’re requested by your Vice President (or director/manager consulting with your Vice President), you should not come to campus.
  • Employees will be receiving separate information at the appropriate interval with additional details about compensation, in part related to pending federal legislation addressing the national emergency.

By working together, we hope to do our part to help minimize the spread of this infectious pandemic. As soon as we’re able to resume in a safe manner, SCO will do so. We understand the concern students will feel about their academic progress. Please know that the college will continue working with ACOE and others in our field for best practice recommendations.

Please monitor your email, the college’s website, and social media for additional updates. As stressful as this unprecedented situation may seem, we are mindful that there are thousands of infected patients across the nation and many more around the globe. As educators and healthcare providers, society looks to institutions like SCO for trust when it comes to patient care safety.

Individual questions are welcomed as this situation unfolds. SCO appreciates your continued commitment to the high standards that have made the college a leader in optometric education and the region’s leading eyecare provider. SCO was founded during the Great Depression and survived WWII when most of our students were called away to service. With your cooperation, we can work together through this latest challenge and emerge stronger when this crisis passes.

Lewis Reich, O.D., Ph.D.
President
Southern College of Optometry