On Saturday, Feb. 2, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular affairs announced that China is now a Level 4 on the travel advisory scale. This announcement informed U.S. residents to not travel there due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus.
On Wednesday, Chinese health officials raised the death total of the virus to 490 people.
The recent news has created concern amongst those set to travel in the fall to China on SST. Jan Bender Shelter, director of international education, contacted the students who are currently signed up for the trip and their parents via email.
Shelter expressed concern but ensured the group that the situation was being monitored carefully and that the college was in consultation with its partners in China, the U.S. State Department, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other travel and study abroad organizations.
“We will not send you into a situation that will be threatening to your health and will not go if the State Department travel advisory remains at a level 4,” Shelter said in her email.
Shelter stated the difficulty in projecting the future spread of the disease and health risks. For that reason, the college has continued with orientation and preparations for the group to travel.
“We think that in the next month the trends will be much clearer for figuring out what to do,” Shetler said. “So we aren’t making an immediate decision.”
Included in the email was information about the virus and prevention methods, which are similar to those of a common cold or flu. These precautions include: frequently washing your hands, especially after sneezing, coughing, being in crowds or interacting with someone who is sick; limiting contact with others who are sick; practicing normal food safety and avoiding live-food markets. The information also encourages anyone who is experiencing symptoms such as a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, to seek medical attention quickly.
The CDC has identified 11 positive cases of the Coronavirus in the U.S.. Positive cases have been identified in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington. There are currently 76 cases pending and 206 that have resulted in a negative diagnosis.
Meanwhile, the CDC estimated 19,000,000 to 26,000,000 cases of the flu in the U.S. from Oct. 1, 2019 to Jan. 25, 2020. Between 180,000 to 310,000 cases are estimated to have resulted in hospitalization and there are 10,000 to 25,000 estimated deaths.
Grace Van Note, who is part of the 2020 China SST, hopes that the group will be able to travel.
“I’ve been planning on going to China for SST since I was a freshman. I am a junior now so this is disconcerting,” Note said. “We still have so much time that a cancellation doesn’t feel like a real possibility yet.”
Shelter echoed Notes optimism on the trip going ahead, but acknowledges that the future is still unknown. “The people that I am talking to in international education and public health think that by fall things will be ok to go.” she said. “But who knows what turn this will take.”