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On the front lines combatting SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19

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UC’s highest priority is the safety of its health care workers, staff and students. Our prioritization of safety, however, does not limit our commitment to actively confronting the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and treatment for those who develop COVID-19.

Our academic medical centers are among the most prepared facilities in the world. That’s why patients who may have been exposed to the virus, known as Persons Under Investigation (PUI), as well as confirmed COVID-19 cases, are treated at our medical centers. 

Thus far, six confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been cared for at our medical centers, including at UC Davis Health, UCSF Health and UC San Diego Health. Some of those cases have fully recovered and been discharged, while others remain in our care. We are grateful to all the clinicians and support staff who have rallied to bring world-class care to these patients.

“The University of California is always prepared to take on the world’s biggest problems because of the mission-driven focus of UC’s students, faculty and staff,” said Dr. Carrie L. Byington, executive vice president and head of UC Health. Byington — who is an internationally recognized infectious disease scientist — continued, “I join many others across California and the nation in thanking the UC community for their contributions to the preparedness of the state and nation, and for their ongoing efforts to care for patients with COVID-19.”


Since December 2019, people throughout the world have been following SARS-CoV-2 — AKA “the coronavirus” — as it spread from Wuhan, China, to other regions. In late January, the World Health Organization declared it a global health emergency; because the virus is now in several countries, it will likely be designated as a “pandemic.” This designation means that the virus has spread geographically, and it may give the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services more resources to activate.

Here are some of the ways that the UC community is stepping up to address SARS-CoV-2.

Modeling best-practice patient care

With significant expertise treating infectious diseases, UC’s academic medical centers have played a key role in evaluating people who are potentially infected with SARS CoV-2, as well as treating those infected. UC medical centers in San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento are among the few hospitals in the US that have treated patients with COVID-19.

All UC medical centers are well-versed in caring for patients with complex illnesses, including those with infectious diseases. UC Davis Health is at the forefront of understanding how the virus spreads, including community-based transmission not related to travel to or contact with others who have been in certain geographic areas.  UCSF Health, drawing on its experience from the 2003 SARS epidemic, reports, “In addition to our standard infectious disease protocols, we have instituted a number of measures to screen patients with potential 2019-nCoV, as well as prevent the coronavirus’ spread.”  UCSF created a targeted public website with COVID-19 information for health care providers, including patient screening guidelines, patient resources, safety tips and even printable hospital signs, and all medical centers are engaged in sharing accurate health information with the public.

Advancing scientific understanding and developing new tools

UC scientists are sharing their knowledge of COVID-19 with researchers around the world. Scientists have posted COVID-19’s genome to the UC Santa Cruz Genome Browser. They have added its protease structure to the Protein Data Bank Archive, which is managed by a consortium of data centers, including UC San Diego and UCSF. Notably, UCSF is working to ensure that current and future patients can be accurately and quickly diagnosed through a point-of-care test that it is developing through its gene sequencing program. Once it is developed, it will allow patients to be tested for illnesses like SARS CoV-2 in the emergency room, urgent care or their local doctor’s office. UCLA researchers reported that travel-related screening can identify fewer than half of those infected with COVID-19, while UC Riverside researchers determined that the virus is also spreading by feces.

UC researchers aren’t limiting their scientific explorations to humans: UC Berkeley found that bats’ immune systems drive viruses like COVID-19 to replicate more quickly. UC Davis scientists are harnessing veterinary expertise to address zoonotic pathogens — viruses like COVID-19 that can pass from animals to humans. Their participation in the Global Virome Project and Preventing Emerging Pathogenic Threats program will help scientists detect, assess and reduce the spread of viruses.

Educating the public

Since knowledge of the disease was first shared, there’s been no shortage of rumors about COVID-19. And, according to Sanghyuk Shin, director, UC Irvine Infectious Disease Science Initiative, “one of the ways to combat fear is to be equipped with good knowledge.” UC has been at the forefront of providing crucial factual information to the public. From explaining COVID-19 basics and how the virus spreads to addressing common questions — including whether pets are susceptible and why you shouldn’t panic — UC is a trusted source of accurate information.

Educating campus communities

UC takes the safety of students, staff and faculty seriously. When campus communities needed targeted advice about COVID-19 safety, all of UC’s academic and medical campuses began sharing information. Resources have included targeted information for students and for faculty and staff, including guidelines for instructors of ill students, as well as detailed updates to travel regulations. Campuses have also created safe spaces for students who have been personally impacted by COVID-19. View more campus updates at UCnet.

Promoting unity

In an informative podcast, Douglas Haynes, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion at UC Irvine, shares how to cultivate and increase intelligent empathy — and counter biases — when global events cause fear, stress and anxiety. “It’s so important that as a great public research university, everyone learns the facts and value accuracy, precisely because misinformation and biases can only exacerbate the sense of the unknown and the anxiety that people have,” Haynes says. “There are things we can do to support each other. We are a community first and foremost.” Along these lines, UC Santa Barbara hosted a Coronavirus 101 event to counter racism and promote community. The UC Santa Cruz Chinese Union raised more than $15,000 to help purchase medical supplies for Chinese hospitals.

For more information about UC’s response to COVID-19, visit UCnet.

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