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University of Minnesota leaders share global expertise and outline proactive response plans for COVID-19


As the public health challenges of COVID-19 continue to evolve in communities around the world, the University of Minnesota offers globally recognized subject-matter expertise to keep the public and decision-makers informed. The University’s Board of Regents heard from one of those experts Friday, as well as one of the leaders of the University’s system-wide public health response.

“In the face of this emerging public health challenge, our top priority remains the health, safety, and well-being of our University community,” said President Joan Gabel. “The University is fortunate to be informed by our research and experts, which are at the forefront in providing expertise on COVID-19 around the world, as well as informing our own approach for planning and responding. I’m grateful for the tireless work of so many across our system and our public health partners to ensure that we have strong scientific data and sound procedures in place to deal with an issue as complex, challenging, and unpredictable as COVID-19.”

The effects of this novel coronavirus are being felt around the world. Understanding how this virus and other infectious diseases spread, and how that can help inform public health policy and approaches, will be instrumental in mitigating the widespread impact of COVID-19.

Michael Osterholm, director of the University’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) and a Regents Professor and McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, shared some of his widely sought expertise with the Board. Osterholm provided information regarding the biology of the virus, the epidemiological perspective on how the virus spreads and forecasts for how it will continue to spread, and how existing data can be used to develop community responses to COVID-19 concerns. He also discussed how all of this applies to local populations, both in Minnesota and at the University.

Having direct access to Osterholm’s experience and knowledge gives University leadership a unique resource in addressing COVID-19. He has advised health organizations around the world and appeared in local, national, and international media to better inform the public about the realities of COVID-19. Similarly, CIDRAP has taken a leadership role in broadly disseminating information. The Center recently launched the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center to help connect visitors with expertise from all corners of the world.

Jill DeBoer, director of the University’s Health Emergency Response Office, shared with the Board details about the University’s health emergency preparedness and response on all of its campuses.

DeBoer outlined seven key response goals and priorities, which focus on the safety and wellness of all members of the University community and ensuring continuation of essential University operations, even if faced with potentially significant public health challenges.

DeBoer also discussed with the Board the University’s recently updated emergency response plan and elements of ongoing preparation and work. Part of that ongoing preparation is the institution’s broader role working in close partnership with the state and other entities to stay current on guidance and maintain best practices.

Accurate, timely, and available resources play a key role in achieving these goals and DeBoer emphasized that the University continues to provide a significant amount of information about its plans in a single, centralized location. A variety of the latest COVID-19 information and details about the University’s response, including answers to common questions, are available on the University’s Safe Campus website

The Board also:

  • Approved real estate transactions, including purchases of 414 Erie Street SE and 2829 University Ave SE, as well as the sale of the Murphy’s Warehouse property at 701 24th Ave SE – all in Minneapolis.
  • Experienced research at the University of Minnesota Duluth firsthand by participating in hands-on science demonstrations with engineering faculty on Thursday afternoon.
  • Approved the sale of KUMD, an independent public radio station currently operated by the Duluth campus, to Duluth-Superior Area Educational Television Corporation.
  • Received the report of the student representatives to the Board, who focused their annual report on academic success for students from underserved communities, affordability and supporting student research and discovery.
  • Approved amendments the East Gateway project memorandum of agreement.
  • Approved collective bargaining agreements with Teamsters Local 320 and Law Enforcement Unit Local 196.

The Board of Regents will meet next on May 8, 2020. Visit regents.umn.edu for more information.


Media Contacts

Jake Ricker
University Public Relations
Public Relations
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities