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Coronavirus Monitoring: Travel Restrictions Update

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) update on Feb. 25, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is rapidly evolving with “community spread” being seen in several countries, which means cases of the virus have appeared without a known source of exposure.

 

OSU is relying on CDC, U.S. Department of State, and other global health organizations to guide our decision making with regards to university-related travel, including study abroad programs. By relying on authoritative sources, we are better able to identify what areas are most directly affected. However, due to the rapidly changing nature of the virus outbreaks, we are fully aware that new areas can be identified very quickly that might lead to further restrictions at any time. We monitor news from the affected regions constantly and have made significant investments in systems that allow us to track security and safety threats, and to immediately contact students and faculty should any danger arise.

 

Our policy is to restrict university travel to any region with a State Department Level 3 travel advisory or a CDC Level 3 advisory. We remain confident that these organizations are best suited to provide guidance, although we continue to monitor news out of all regions, and will, when merited, restrict access to areas that we believe might present some risk to students and faculty.

 

Because the health and safety of our campus community is of the utmost priority, OSU suspended all university-sponsored travel to China in January upon learning of the escalating number of cases of the virus. As of this week, the CDC Level 3 restriction on all non-essential travel also includes South Korea in addition to China, and OSU continues to ban all travel to any Level 3 restricted areas. Level 2 areas with sustained community spread of the virus include Japan, Italy and Iran. Hong Kong is currently identified by the CDC as a Level 1 restriction.

 

Impact on spring break programs

In addition to the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, there are other risks associated with travel, including the risk of involuntary quarantine for those who travel through affected areas.  Each academic college and department sponsoring study abroad programs have been asked to evaluate each program to determine the risk assessment for those programs.

 

Due to Italy’s Level 2 restriction status, we are asking Italy study abroad program leaders to avoid the affected areas (Veneto and Lombardy), and change their itinerary to avoid those areas. Other areas of Italy, or indeed, anywhere, could later be affected and travel plans cancelled.  In addition, all faculty leading spring break trips abroad, regardless of destination, are required to complete an enhanced risk assessment for the affected region, and to develop contingency plans in the event the virus is found in their host country. In addition, we have instructed faculty to consider means of transportation that minimize any possible transmission.

 

Impact on semester and yearlong programs

OSU students who are currently abroad with approved academic or other partners are staying in place while we continue to monitor on a daily basis. We will stay in touch with the partners and the students to make sure that they are aware of our deep concern for their well-being.

 

If a student feels the need to return to the U.S., we are directing their home departments to work with the students to find alternative ways to meet their course credits.

 

OSU is currently waiting to evaluate summer trips abroad, and we are asking colleges to extend deadlines for withdrawal if at all possible. The university will not approve of any travel to areas that have been identified by authoritative governmental organizations as having large outbreaks of the virus.

 

What you can do

Coronavirus is believed to spread by close contact with someone who has the illness who coughs or sneezes. Precautions limiting your exposure to the virus are the same as those against the spread of the flu. Please refer to the CDC’s Travelers Health Notices for guidance if you are traveling. If you have health concerns related to the coronavirus symptoms, contact University Health Services at 405-744-7665 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays or after hours at uhs@okstate.edu. Additional information is also available through these Frequently Asked Questions.

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