Sunday Message: January 10, 2021

Dear All,

The first week of the year has made clear that although we get a fresh start for 2021, we will have to continue to draw on the reserves of resilience and goodwill that sustained us through 2020. As we begin the new quarter, I’d like to welcome everyone back, and extend an especially warm welcome to the MSx Class of 2021. We look forward to your orientation starting tomorrow!

I have a few health updates, and some good news about faculty awards. We’ve been sending a lot of health information already to students, faculty and staff, so what follows is a summary of the major points.

Local Health Conditions

In recent weeks, Santa Clara has had nearly ten times the number of daily COVID cases as it did during some earlier periods of the pandemic. Capacity utilization in ICUs currently is over 95%. In short, local health conditions are a huge challenge.

On Friday, the state extended the Bay Area Stay-at-Home order. It is slated to continue until ICU utilization falls below 85%. Santa Clara, and most other counties in the state, also remain in the most restrictive Purple Tier of the state classification system. Daily COVID cases must fall by a factor of around four for us to move to a lower tier.

Clearly, after last year, one wants to have a degree of humility in making forecasts — but realistically, we should expect to remain under these restrictive state and county rules for much, or all, of the Winter Quarter.

Stanford Campus and Winter Quarter

As Stanford’s President and Provost wrote yesterday, the university has decided not to invite undergraduates back to campus for Winter Quarter. This means that the on-campus population is limited to graduate and professional students, and undergraduates with special circumstances, as was the case in Fall Quarter.

The university has reported that more than 40 students have tested positive for COVID since returning from break. Higher numbers of faculty and staff are testing positive as well. If you are living or working on campus, please be careful to protect yourself and the community. Faculty and staff also should be aware of the required testing for those coming regularly to campus.

Planning for Vaccine Distribution

The new vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re all eager to know the timeline and process for getting vaccinated. Stanford is posting updates on Health Alerts reflecting the latest information from the state and county.

California has issued state guidelines for the initial phases of vaccine distribution, and Santa Clara is making local plans following these guidelines. There’s a lot of discussion about timelines, but so far, California has stated only that it expects to vaccinate most of the state’s residents by summer 2021.

Stanford began vaccinating its healthcare workforce in December as part of the first phase of vaccine distribution. The state and county haven’t determined Stanford’s role, if any, in vaccinating the rest of our community. Currently, the university is prepared to work closely with the county and Stanford Medicine in whatever capacity is required.

Useful Health Data

I am sharing links to a few of the dashboards we’re following closely:

Faculty Honors

I’d also like to take this opportunity to share some recent faculty honors.

  • Fischer Black Prize. Just before break, GSB faculty member Matteo Maggiori was announced as the winner of the Fischer Black Prize. The prize is the major early career award in academic finance, awarded every two years to a scholar under the age of 40. Matteo was recognized for his work on international finance and macroeconomics. He is the second member of the GSB faculty to receive the prize, after Yuliy Sannikov. Congratulations to Matteo!
  • CME Group – MSRI Prize. Congratulations also to GSB faculty member Susan Athey, who received the CME Group – MSRI Prize in December. The prize is awarded for the application of mathematical and statistical techniques to the study of markets and economics. Susan follows Stanford faculty members David Kreps, Bob Wilson, and Paul Milgrom in winning this prestigious international award. Kudos to Susan!

Last year was an extraordinary one for GSB faculty members in terms of winning major awards, and I think it reflects both the current intellectual strength of our faculty, and their commitment to bringing innovative ideas to action.

As we start the quarter, we know there are challenges ahead, but we have the good fortune of being part of an amazing community. I look forward to seeing what we will create with our spirit, creativity, and purpose.

Wishing you health and optimism,

Jon