Michael D. Lairmore, Dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

This past week has brought more concerning news to all of us about the recent resurgence of COVID cases in California, and nationally. The continuing challenges our nation faces, as we all attempt to control the pandemic, are complicated by multiple factors, including misinformation about control measures and resource limitations to adequately address the spread of the infection. We find ourselves facing an unprecedented challenge to continue to fulfill our obligations as an essential workforce and our important role to educate the next generation of veterinarians and scientists.

Our School has the obligation to continue our operations with a focus on the health and safety of our people. I have been asked, “Why don’t we shut down operations in the face of the pandemic?” The answer to that question is not simple and has complex ramifications, even if we could do such a drastic step. If we shut down, we threaten our reputation and our AVMA accreditation status. This extreme step would have devastating effects on our School in multiple ways and negative consequences for our mission and the lives of our faculty, staff, and students. For example, if we decided to stop teaching in our veterinary hospital, we would need to answer questions related to how we would justify the expense of the operation, and deal with the budgetary collapse and its enviable effects on our human resources. Additionally, if we reduce or eliminate vital services to protect the public, and stop treatments that reduce animal suffering, we would violate the oath that we take as veterinarians and negate our important role with the State of California.

We must realize that all of our society is dealing with the COVID pandemic, and we are doing everything we can to mitigate the risks associated with performing our mission. It is also important to note where the risks may come from in our everyday interactions outside of work versus the risk of coming to work in context to all of the precautions we are taking to reduce those risks. To further address questions and provide important resources for our community, we have created a new “Coronavirus Information and Updates” website (published 7/23) with important new features, including a more user-friendly version with veterinary hospital information for clients, FAQs for faculty, staff and students, and media contacts. The website also includes important COVID campus information and a link to the Deans Discuss podcast. As issues, recommendations, and policies may be influenced as circumstances of the public health threat change, I would ask all of you to remain patient; our resources and information will be  altered to reflect those changes as swiftly as possible. For example, on Friday, July 24th, Yolo County issued new isolation and quarantine orders to prevent COVID spread.

To further address questions of our VMTH personnel, a virtual town hall on “COVID Prevention in the Workplace” will be zoomed TODAY, Monday, July 27 at 3 p.m. Faculty and staff in the VMTH are invited to attend a Q&A zoom session on COVID prevention in the workplace. The session will be with the VMTH leadership, the Educational Access Team, and Dr. Stuart Cohen, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Director of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control at UC Davis Health. The focus will be on screening asymptomatic individuals and testing. The session will be recorded for those that are unable to attend.

We continue to face many challenges for our international students, but we are pleased that the White House administration rescinded their plan to strip visas from international students participating in online educational offerings. 

As we actively plan for our fall semester and the return of students, we are working closely with campus leaders to find new resources for adjustments in how we teach, but maintain our teaching outcomes from lectures to labs. I appreciate everyone’s hard work, talent, and solution-focused attitude, as we face our challenges together and deliver on our mission to advance the health of animals, people, and the environment.

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