Office of the President

March 10, 2020

To the William Paterson Community:

Earlier this morning, a letter was sent to campus members of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) from their local office which raised concerns about a faculty member who may have had contact with someone unaffiliated with the University, who may have subsequently developed a presumptive case of the COVID-19 virus.

We are fully aware of these circumstances and have conferred with local health authorities, who are investigating the case. We are also conferring with the State Department of Health, as a precaution. While the faculty member was known to be at an event with someone who is presumed to have the virus, I can assure you that local health authorities investigated the event in question, mapped the interactions of attendees, and determined that the faculty member was not identified as being a close contact in need of self-isolation. Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, the faculty member was sent home while we investigated the circumstances.

At this time, there are no cases – presumed or confirmed – of COVID-19 among University students, faculty, or staff. Dr. Jill Guzman, head of our Counseling, Health and Wellness Center and leader of our COVID-19 planning and response efforts is working around the clock with her staff to implement our plans and is in daily contact with local and state health authorities.

As I wrote yesterday, we are sure to see the number of reported COVID-19 cases in our region increase, especially as testing expands. We are closely monitoring developments and are prepared to respond quickly as needed to ensure the health and safety of our community.

Again, if you believe you have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus, stay home for two weeks and call your local health department and Human Resources. In either event, you should contact your supervisor and make arrangements to work remotely, if possible. You will be paid in these circumstances.

As this situation continues to unfold, I want to urge everyone to be very sensitive when sharing information with the community and not to share unconfirmed or incomplete information. Also bear in mind that sharing an individual’s health information is a violation of federal HIPAA privacy laws. The COVID-19 virus is, of course, cause for concern and we are responding accordingly. Another, potentially greater risk, is the unnecessary fear that is generated when rumors are spread in our community. 

I will continue to update you on the facts as we know them, and I remind you again to check the website for more information and regular updates.

Richard J. Helldobler, PhD
Office of the President | 973.720.2222 |