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Penn State Restricts University-Affiliated Travel Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

by on February 28, 2020 1:35 PM

Penn State has introduced a series of travel restrictions in response to the growing concerns about the global coronavirus outbreak, Provost Nicholas Jones announced Friday morning.

All university-affiliated travel to China and South Korea is prohibited for students, while short-term, faculty-led programs in Italy and Japan, which may include trips over spring break, have been canceled due to “logistical disruptions and limited travel availability.”

University-affiliated travel to China and South Korea for faculty and staff is “strongly discouraged” and would require approval by the provost and university risk officer.

Penn State also canceled an embedded course in Vietnam because of flights that would take students through South Korea.

A spokesperson said students who were scheduled to go on a now-canceled university trip will be refunded course fees and flight costs.

Students studying abroad for the semester in Italy and Japan can still stay there for the time being, per recommendations from global health agencies. The university is also assisting Penn State travelers with chronic diseases in CDC Level-2 Advisory countries with returning home if they wish to do so.

More than 83,000 cases and 2,800 deaths from the novel coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide, the vast majority in China where it originated in late 2019. COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has now been confirmed in 56 countries and on six continents. In the United States, 62 cases have been confirmed, none in Pennsylvania.

“While the CDC has indicated that for the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is low, Penn State will continue to vigilantly monitor the evolving situation and make decisions based on facts and with the health and safety of our community the primary focus,” Jones said in a release.

Penn State Global Safety officials base their decisions on many factors, including the latest recommendations, restrictions, and advisories from the State Department, the CDC, the World Health Organization, and the United HealthCare Global World Watch Intelligence Database, among other sources.

“We understand there is a lot of concern and conflicting information circulating about the coronavirus and international travel,” a spokesman said in a statement. “As the safety of all students, faculty and staff traveling internationally is a priority, Penn State officials have been in direct contact with Penn State travelers to provide the latest information from the university and health agencies.”

Penn State has established a website for updates on its response to the virus. Students concerned about Global Programs are encouraged to sign up for email notifications by sending an email here.

Anthony Colucci is a writer for Onward State
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