Coronavirus Preparedness Task Force

Update: Task Force Summary of Activities

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to increase in the United States rapidly, there is cause for concern. With nearly 26,000 confirmed cases, New York State leads the nation; in New York City, there are more than 14,000 cases, and the City’s death toll is at least 131. The numbers continue to change daily, underscoring how quickly the virus is spreading.

Common sense behaviors like social distancing can help to flatten the curve and the spread of the virus. Additionally, frequent handwashing, the use of anti-bacterial soap, and or alcohol-based hand sanitizers protect against spreading, as is covering your face and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

The Coronavirus Preparedness Task Force, chaired by Dean Brunicardi, is providing this update to keep you informed on how we are managing and responding to COVID-19 here at Downstate. The Task Force will continue to provide timely updates as information is frequent, changing, and fast-moving.

The Governor’s Office, the New York State Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization all guide in this pandemic. With their collective expertise, Downstate has undertaken steps to make necessary and critical changes to flatten the curve and slow the spread.

For Staff and Students

  • As of March 19, we completed migration to online and alternate methods for classroom instruction and delivery for students.
  • We closed the Library, effective, March 20 and provided alternate options to access library services electronically. Faculty, staff, and students can click here.
  • As per the Governor’s Executive Order of Friday, March 20, all New York state workers, apart from those providing essential services, must work or stay at home, effective Sunday evening, March 22. If you are not sure whether you are an essential or a non-essential worker, please speak to your supervisor or department head for clarification.
  • President Riley and key members of the Coronavirus Preparedness Task Force hosted a Virtual Town Hall meeting where nearly 3,000 faculty, staff, and students participated. Task Force members answered hundreds of questions posed in the online chat session and those sent to the Coronavirus Preparedness Task Force email. If you missed it, the Virtual Town Hall Meeting is accessible here.
  • We launched an Intranet site for employees to provide information on COVID-19 to staff by clicking here. This Intranet site is only accessible from your workstation on the Downstate campus, or if you can log in remotely to your desktop. If you are unable to access the Intranet site from your campus location, please send an email to
  • We provided childcare information for essential workers. New York City Department of Education Regional Enrichment Centers are open only to children who are New York City residents and whose parents/guardians work in specific fields, as noted on the Regional Enrichment Center Enrollment Form. All SUNY Downstate University Hospital at Downstate (UHD) staff must select “OTHER” and identify union membership (UUP, PEF, CSEA, etc.)
  • We issued guidelines, and IT resources for social distancing by updating the website with practical tips and instructions for the SUNY Downstate campus. Below are some useful links:
  • The Office of Emergency Preparedness established a STUDENT AND STAFF ONLY COVID-19 CALL CENTER to answer questions from students and staff only. The Call Center will operate Monday through Friday, from 10 AM to 12:00 noon; the number to reach them is 718-221-6585. Callers leaving questions or messages on the voicemail will receive a response within 24 hours of the next business day.
  • We hosted a virtual Annual Match Day Ceremony on March 20 to celebrate nearly 200 College of Medicine fourth-year residents receiving their residency match notifications. While we must practice social distancing, we wanted to make sure that our students celebrated in some way that memorialized this critical day in their lives. Click here to see the Match Day Livestream.
  • We issued a communication that mandatory overtime may be required of all essential staff in UHD for clinical employees involved in patient care and disaster response.
  • We issued a communication that rescinding all pre-approved leave requests, including vacations. This policy applies to all essential employees in all unions, i.e., UUP, PEF, CSEA, NYSCOPBA, and PBANYS.
  • University Police issued an appeal inviting the Downstate community to view a video message about emergency alerts here and to remind everyone to register for the SEND WORD NOW Alert System at


  • As of March 24, the number of tests performed at UHD since March 13, including inpatient, outpatient, and Employee Health, is 178. Of that number, 60 tested positive, 41 tested in the negative, and 77 remain “Patients Under Investigation” (PUIs), awaiting test results.
  • Of those who are inpatient-classified, 28 are positive, and 41 are PUIs. There were 11 deaths. We anticipate these numbers will change, as they do daily, and as the patient surge increases.
  • We continue to monitor our PPE inventory daily.
  • We are investigating the expansion of our bed capacity per the Governor’s directive.
  • Governor Cuomo has identified SUNY among 28 COVID-19 testing sites in New York State. Our supportive and dedicated Brooklyn Congressional and State Delegation sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, requesting expedited delivery of critical testing equipment to Downstate. Without this crucial equipment and accompanying tests, UHD cannot meet the demand for testing through commercial labs and the NYC Department of Health for those who may be infected by COVID-19.
  • We suspended all elective surgical cases. Surgical services for patients whose treatments mandate it, and where delays may risk harm, will continue as necessary. Urgent and emergency cases will continue in the main campus OR.
  • We disseminated COVID-19 testing and lab instructions for clinical staff.
  • We issued new health guidance for healthcare providers from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene about caring for patients with COVID-19 illness or suspected infection.
  • We provided information on the continuity of research in case of suspension of activities.
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo’s latest COVID-19-related Executive Order (EO) for New York State focuses on several healthcare-related laws and regulations, the waiver of several of which GNYHA had requested. The waivers, which will be in effect through April 22, 2020, are the broadest issued to date. GNYHA will release further analysis shortly.
  • The EO contains immunity for physicians, physician assistants (PA), specialist assistants (SA), nurse practitioners (NP), registered nurses (RN), and licensed practical nurses (LPN) for civil liability for any injury or death alleged to have been sustained directly as a result of an act or omission by such medical professional in the course of providing medical services in support of the State’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak unless it is established that such injury or death was caused by gross negligence.
  • We have deployed several screening tents; additional ones are in the delivery process as we anticipate more patients as the COVID-19 surge increases.

    photo of ER screening tents
  • CAMSS 20Q Shelter System
    camss 20q shelter
  • New Negative Pressure screening tents are currently operating.
    blue tents

Visitors to University Hospital at Downstate

  • We established a new Visitor Policy for patients.
  • We restricted visitor access as well as entry points to minimize the risk of exposure to patients and our community.
  • We restricted the 445 Lenox Road entrance for exempt visitors of hospitalized patients only.
  • We restricted the 470 Clarkson Avenue entrance for outpatient use only.

Important Reminders

The Coronavirus Preparedness Task Force continues to meet in scheduled calls each morning and afternoon, and as needed during the day.

President Riley is in daily contact with Chancellor Johnson, the Governor’s Office, and the New York State Department of Health.

The Office of Communications & Marketing will continue to monitor and review all media requests and manage responses.

While we cannot dictate whether you speak to the media if approached, we encourage you to forward any such requests to Communications & Marketing AVP Dawn Walker at or at (347) 533-2071. You may also contact Public Relations Director John Gillespie at, or at 718-744-7335. We will work with our team of in-house subject matter experts to respond.

Please note that typical coronaviruses are widely prevalent and recognized as a cause of the common cold. Our Hospital Lab testing systems can diagnose these common infections but not the novel coronavirus strain. Only specific labs can test for nCoV.

Practice social distancing in the work environment by moving in-person meetings to telephone calls and conference calls. To schedule online meetings, please contact the Service Desk at

Serious illness, including death, has been noted primarily in the elderly and those who have severe underlying medical conditions. Despite news to the contrary, there are no current known antiviral therapies nor vaccines, though studies of both vaccines and antiviral medications are underway.

As is usual for this time of year, there are many different ‘bugs’ circulating, including influenza, that make people sick. Remember to do the following:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; if soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also useful.