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FAQ - General Questions

General Questions

Background on COVID-19


General Questions

Is AU prepared to handle COVID-19?

The university has a comprehensive approach focused on supporting our study abroad students in affected countries and preparing our campus and community as the COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation develops in the United States. The university is following the guidance from U.S. health agencies and will update its response as needed based on new information or developments. Any changes to the response will be communicated to the community.

Where can I get information about the university’s response?

The university has a dedicated page at www.american.edu/coronavirus.

Has the university canceled classes or events, including graduation?

On March 12, AU announced that all classes will move to online platforms following spring break for the remainder of the semester. Read the details in the community message from President Sylvia Burwell. Commencement in May is still scheduled at this time.

Are there confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the DC area or at AU?

As of March 27, there were 774 confirmed cases in Maryland, 604 in Virginia, and 267 in the District of Columbia. The AU community’s first known case of COVID-19 was reported on March 16 and as of March 26, there are a total of 12 confirmed cases among AU community members. All are receiving medical care and support. 

For more information on confirmed cases, please visit the dedicated page within the COVID-19 Resources site. 

What should I do if I am concerned about being exposed?

While it is understandable to question if you have come into contact with someone who has a confirmed case, there are two important things to remember. First, the public health departments will determine who needs to be contacted based on their investigation of each case. Second, with ongoing community spread of COVID-19 around the region, country, and world, the most important thing for all of us to do is practice good health hygiene and social distancing and follow the guidance from U.S. and local health authorities. If you have been in high risk countries or areas of the U.S., be vigilant about following CDC guidance for monitoring your health and self-isolating. Please keep these things in mind and help support both the individuals who have COVID-19 and our entire community.

It’s important to remember that confirmed cases do not always indicate active infections. In fact, many individuals who have tested positive have already recovered or are in the process of recovering.

Where can I find updated information about confirmed COVID-19 cases that get reported at AU?

To keep our community informed of future confirmed cases of COVID-19, AU created a dedicated page within the COVID-19 Resources site. This page will be updated regularly regarding new known, confirmed cases among the AU community. This will be the best and most current source of information about confirmed COVID-19 cases and we encourage you to regularly check for updates.

What safety precautions is AU taking to clean and sanitize our community?

We are working to keep our community safe through enhanced cleaning of public areas and surfaces, precautions for our staff in the Health Center who are supporting students and our teams who are helping students complete the move-out process from the residence halls, moving our faculty and staff to expanded telework, and our overall actions to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

What can I do to help prepare?

Stay up to date on guidance from CDC and the DC Department of Health. Faculty and staff can review information from OIT to help support telework. All members of the community should continue to practice good health hygiene, such as regular and thorough hand washing and covering your mouth with your elbow when you cough or sneeze. Anyone exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness (e.g., cough, fever, shortness of breath) should stay home from class and/or work, avoid others for the duration of the symptoms, and contact your health provider for guidance.

Where should I report if I receive a confirmed positive test for COVID-19?

If you receive a confirmed test for COVID-19, please use the following emails to inform us. For students who were not seen or tested at the Student Health Center, please email prepared@american.edu. For faculty and staff, please email employeerelations@american.edu. All personal information will be kept confidential.

Will I have access to resources at Bender Library during the semester?

Bender Library will continue normal services up until 6:00 pm ET on Sunday, March 15, 2020. Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, Bender Library will be closed to the public and will be operating in a virtual function. During this time, there will be limited staff on-site to scan and deliver materials electronically requested by students. Detailed requests for materials can be placed through the library catalog or emailed to circulation@american.edu. As the university continues to monitor the developments around COVID-19, the Library will review its operating status and make adjustments accordingly.

I have books from Bender Library that I need to return, what should I do?

The Bender Library book-drop will continue to be open and both books and videos can be returned there. Students, faculty and staff don’t need to renew materials online that are already checked out as the due date for those materials has been extended until May 31, 2020. If you receive a notification in error, send an email to circulation@american.edu and the library staff will look into it. Should the due date need to extend beyond May 31, 2020 the library staff will update you with that information.

Are campus tours canceled?

Operations in the Admissions Welcome Center have been suspended and in concert with guidance from health officials, there are no group information sessions or tours at this time. We encourage everyone to enjoy a virtual tour of AU.

What is the status of summer classes?

Plans for summer classes remain unchanged at this time.

Will the Pass/Fail grading policy change in the light of the university’s move to online for the Spring 2020 classes?

Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Dan Myers’s memo to students on March 26 outlines details on the temporary change for most undergraduate and graduate students to select a Pass/Fail option for the spring 2020 semester.

Are Fitness Center facilities available for use?

In our ongoing efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and in accordance with regional municipalities and national recommendations, American University has closed the Jacobs Fitness Center, the Cassell Fitness Center, Bender Arena, the Reeves Aquatics Center, and Frailey Pool until further notice. 

What do I need to do to pause deductions for the fitness center?

Payroll deductions for use of the fitness center will not pause automatically. If you wish to drop your Fitness Center membership for April, be sure to submit it no later than April 8.

To pause payroll deductions:

  1. Complete a new Payroll Deduction Form, and check “drop” in Step 2 of the form.
  2. Sign, scan, and email the form to Akeem Pridgen at pridgen@american.edu.

Requests for cancellation must be submitted in advance of processing for the current payroll period (see: Payroll schedule). Once the Fitness Center reopens, you will be able to renew your membership. Be sure to visit the Fitness Center webpage to sign up for the listserv to stay up to date.

Background on COVID-19

What is COVID-19 (coronavirus)?

Coronaviruses comprise a group of extremely common upper respiratory infections. It is likely that most young adults have had a coronavirus infection in the past, since they are one of the most common causes of a head cold.  The viruses frequently cause cough, congestion, runny nose, a sore throat and occasional fever. COVID-19 is a new strain of this virus which can, in some instances, cause more severe cough and even shortness of breath in the form of a pneumonia.  

Are there signs or symptoms I should be looking for?

Symptoms of this virus include cough, congestion, runny nose, sore throat, low grade fever and shortness of breath. These symptoms are also seen in a common cold, influenza, and a myriad of other viruses. However, just because a person has these symptoms does not mean that they have COVID-19, even if they traveled from an area of the world where this is an epidemic. It is important to follow the guidance from health authorities and not make independent conclusions.

What is the best way to avoid contracting COVID-19?

The CDC recommends practicing good health hygiene to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based sanitizer;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
  • Stay home when you are sick;
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash; and
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Is a surgical mask/face mask helpful in preventing transmission of COVID-19?

The CDC recommends several ways to protect yourself and others, including:

  • Wear a face mask if you are sick: You should wear a face mask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a face mask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a face mask if they enter your room. Learn what to do if you are sick.
  • If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a face mask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a face mask). Face masks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.

Where can I get more information on COVID-19? 

For up-to-date information, please check the following websites:

Should I get tested for COVID-19?

Only health-care providers can request a test for COVID-19, which also must be coordinated with the DC Department of Health. If you are feeling sick and exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness (cough, fever, etc.), contact your health care provider for guidance. Students can contact the Student Health Center at shc@american.edu.