/ News /

Important Information Regarding COVID-19

Important Information Regarding COVID-19, the “coronavirus”, or 2019-nCoV

March 9, 2020

Dear Curtis community,


Curtis is committed to supporting everyone in our community throughout the developing situation of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV. Under guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the University of Pennsylvania Student Health Service (Penn SHS), multiple staff across Curtis are working together to ensure the health and safety of our campus and to follow relevant protocols to address any cases that may arise on our campus.

At this time, there are no identified cases of COVID-19 in our community. As part of being proactive, Curtis will continue to look at any and all options to keep our students, staff, and faculty healthy.  This could include suspending all operations. This document summarizes actions that have been taken to date, outlines precautionary behaviors, and identifies further resources. Updated information will be posted as it is available.

We would like to remind everyone that while the origins of the virus were in China, the virus does not have a race, ethnicity, or geopolitical boundary. Cases have been documented in individuals of varying ages, genders, and countries of citizenship. Curtis has immense appreciation for our international students, faculty, and community members from China and other affected areas, and condemns the profiling occurring in some places in the United States. All members of the Curtis community are expected to treat each other with consideration and maintain standards of conduct.  We will not tolerate harassment of any kind.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19, also known as 2019-nCoV and coronavirus, is a newly identified virus causing an outbreak of pneumonia illness. It was first identified in December 2019 in central China and since then has spread to most areas of the globe. This new virus is a public health concern because it is new and so much about it is still unknown.

Should I panic?

No. The CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 15 million flu illnesses in the United States, causing 140,000 hospitalizations, and 8,200 deaths. Currently flu is a far bigger threat than COVID-19. We encourage all community members to be aware of the measures you can take, outlined below, to help protect you from contracting an illness.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms are similar to those of the flu and can range from mild to serious. Specifically, an infected person will have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

What should I do if I am experiencing symptoms?

Seek medical care right away. Students should contact Penn Student Health, an urgent care location in Center City, or an emergency room.

  • Call the facility first.  The provider will conduct a symptom screening over the phone, then provide further instructions.
  • Avoid contact with others. Do not travel on public transportation. Curtis will reimburse the cost of a ride-share service or taxi.
  • Any student experiencing symptoms should notify Dean Tarditi or Dean Bryan immediately. Faculty and staff should contact Human Resources.

How is it transmitted?

It is currently believed that coronavirus spreads from person-to-person, likely through droplets of saliva when someone coughs or sneezes.

How is it treated?

People infected with COVID-19 should receive health care immediately to relieve symptoms. There is no specific antiviral treatment, nor a vaccine.

What can I do to protect myself?

  1. Get a flu vaccine, if you have not done so already. Students are able to get a flu vaccine for free at Penn Student Health.
  2. Wash your hands often and well. Handwashing is the best and most effective way to prevent the spread of germs. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Sanitizer stations are location in every Curtis building and common area and are always stocked.
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  4. Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  5. Do not share utensils, water bottles, cigarettes or vapes, reeds, mouthpieces, or anything else that touches another person’s mouth.
  6. Avoid kissing and any intimate contact with a person showing respiratory symptoms like coughing, fever, and shortness of breath.
  7. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and dispose.
  8. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces like your cell phone, computer, doorknobs, handles, and light switches.
  9. Stay home if you feel sick.

Should I wear a mask?

Masks are only recommended for those individuals experiencing symptoms. The evidence regarding using masks for prevention is mixed, as many people do not use masks correctly. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the CDC do not currently recommend masks for the prevention of viruses.

What if I need to travel outside of the United States?

Per the Department of State and the CDC, travel to countries with a Level 3 or Level 4 Travel Advisory should be cancelled. As of March 9, such countries include China, Iran, Venezuela, South Korea, Italy, Mongolia, and others. Travel to Japan, Hong Kong, or Russia is categorized as Level 2, which advises enhanced precautions. Curtis does not recommend travel to any of these areas unless absolutely necessary.
If you are traveling to any other country, we advise the following:

  • Stay alert to travel restrictions and advisories from the U.S. Department of State.  These are changing every day as more countries are affected.
  • Be aware of your flight path and any layovers in a restricted country.
  • Purchase refundable tickets.
  • Purchase travel insurance with trip interruption and medical evacuation coverage.
  • Check your e-mail at least daily for updates.
  • Travel with all key documents, including your passport, driver’s license, visa, I-20, and I-94.
  • Ensure you have health insurance for your destination country.
  • Practice everyday precautions to prevent the spread of germs, as listed above.
  • If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, seek medical care as quickly as possible and notify Curtis, as described above.

What actions is Curtis taking to protect the health of the community? 

Updated March 11, 2020

Multiple units across Curtis are working together to ensure the health of the community. Below is a summary of some actions that have been taken to date. Please be assured that this list will be updated as the situation unfolds. 
  • Extension of Spring Break.  The current spring vacation will be extended until Sunday, March 22.  During this period, no school-sponsored activities – lessons, coachings, rehearsals, classes, etc. – will be scheduled.  Dining services will continue to be closed.  Access to Curtis facilities, such as practice rooms and rehearsal spaces, will be limited to Curtis students, faculty, and staff only. Students currently at home for spring vacation are urged to stay there, and students in Philadelphia - particularly those residing in Lenfest Hall - are encouraged to take this opportunity to return home if possible.  The current understanding of COVID-19 suggests that less dense residential environments may prevent the spread of the virus.  

  • Auditions. In an effort to minimize our community’s exposure to the coronavirus, we have made the difficult decision to cancel or alter the remaining departmental auditions.  Should updated information on COVID-19 permit a discussion of rescheduling any of these auditions, affected applicants will be contacted.
  • Travel. Travel by Curtis faculty, staff, and students is monitored through several mechanisms. For the immediate future, there are no institutional activities or travel planned to any of the high-risk areas. To date, several competitions and student performances in China and Japan have been cancelled, and we have not had students travel to affected areas since before the outbreak. Curtis on Tour engagements are being evaluated individually and will be cancelled if deemed to pose a community health risk. 

A campus-wide alert was sent on March 5, asking all students, faculty, and staff to register Spring Break travel. If you did not yet register your travel, please do so by clicking this link to the Travel Registry. This information will enable us to assess the risk posed to our community by exposure through travel. We will continue to monitor this and will update the community on policies in accordance with Department of State and CDC guidelines. 

  • Performances.  Due to the extension of spring break at Curtis, all performances and masterclasses that were to take place from March 16 to 22 will be rescheduled for a later date. From March 23 to 31, in-person audiences for on-campus Curtis performances will be limited only to Curtis students, staff, and faculty, but will be streamed live via YouTube and Facebook for the enjoyment of our regular attendees in Philadelphia and from around the world. Masterclasses will not be open to the general public during the March 22-31 period and will not be streamed live. In the days ahead, we will be updating the Curtis performance calendar accordingly.  

Curtis on Tour performances in the Detroit area (March 13-15), Chicago (March 18), and Washington, DC (March 22) have been canceled. All Curtis performances from April 1 through the end of the semester will proceed as scheduled with live audiences but are subject to change as we monitor the impact of COVID-19 on our operations. For questions about performances, please contact tickets@curtis.edu. 

  • Facilities. The Facilities Operations staff are diligent in their care and cleaning of all Curtis buildings, which occurs daily. During this flu season, extra attention is being paid to door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, and high contact areas. Hand sanitizer stations are located in every building and common area and are always stocked, as are the soap dispensers in all restrooms. These precautions, together with vigilant hand washing, should decrease the risk of germs being spread. 

  • Human Resources. Any faculty or staff member experiencing symptoms should err on the side of caution and stay home, for your personal well-being as well as the health and safety of our community. Human Resources will be sending a message to all employees later this week detailing accommodations being put in place in the event of unforeseen absences related to COVID-19.  These exceptional circumstances will require special consideration. 
  • Academics. In the event of a campus outbreak, the decision may be made to cancel classes, lessons, and campus activities. Community members should always check e-mail for notifications. Every effort will be made to continue academic coursework with minimal interruption using Canvas and other online platforms. Any student experiencing symptoms should stay home. Course absences due to this unforeseen medical situation will be accommodated as needed. 
  • Residence Life. Following guidelines from the American College Health Association and the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International, Curtis is developing an institutional isolation plan to enact if and when an infected person is identified on our campus. This includes quarantine housing, environmental protection, and meal availability. Details of the plan will be made available when it has been finalized.  

Contingency plans are also being developed in the event that a member of the Curtis community is unable to travel to their home during a session break or over the summer holiday. This will be updated as Department of State and CDC travel restrictions are implemented and/or lifted. 

How can I stay informed of emergency alerts and updates?

Curtis utilizes the OneCall Now emergency notification system for students, faculty, and staff. In the event of a campus emergency, crisis, or shutdown, you will be alerted by call, e-mail, and text message.

Campus alerts are also posted on the Curtis Campus Alerts website: https://info.curtis.edu/alerts.

For questions about the OneCall Now system, contact Nicholas Lewis, associate dean of student and academic affairs, at nicholas.lewis@curtis.edu.

Where can I find more information?

•    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
•    World Health Organization
•    Philadelphia Department of Public Health
•    Department of Homeland Security Pandemic Readiness

Thank you for doing your part to help keep our campus community safe and healthy.If you have any questions about this document, please contact Trisha Carpino, senior director of human resources, at patricia.carpino@curtis.edu; or Meredith Tarditi, associate dean of student life and international student affairs, at meredith.tarditi@curtis.edu.