Dear Campus Communities:
I am writing to update you on steps being taken to monitor the evolving worldwide coronavirus outbreak and prepare for the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and visitors. I also want to encourage you to bookmark the website we have developed to keep you informed of the latest information regarding Penn State at https://sites.psu.edu/virusinfo.
Our health officials, emergency management representatives, Global Programs officials and others are meeting regularly to discuss COVID-19, review our Continuity of Operations plans, and take proactive steps to minimize exposure and risk for our campus communities across the Commonwealth and our students and employees traveling abroad. We are also continuing to meet with Penn State faculty who are experts in this space, to provide input and perspective. Together, we are looking carefully at broad concerns such as international travel, spring break, readiness of our health centers and housing of students, to name just a few.
Decisions are being made based on many interrelated factors and considerations, including the most recent restrictions and recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Department, the World Health Organization and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. In addition to the measures listed below, University officials, in our review of Penn State’s Continuity of Operations plans, are weighing various options for contingencies that would allow the educational mission of the University to continue if in-person classes at some point are no longer viable.
KEY UNIVERSITY MEASURES:
- Penn State has placed China and South Korea on the restricted list for University-affiliated international travel for students. University-affiliated travel to China and South Korea for faculty and staff is strongly discouraged and would require Provost/University Risk Officer approval.
- In Italy and Japan, short-term, faculty-led programs have been canceled due to logistical disruptions and limited travel availability.
- Penn State has canceled an embedded course in Vietnam due to, among other issues, flights that would take students through South Korea.
- University officials are in contact with travelers currently in countries with elevated health notices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Semester-long courses in these countries are continuing currently, though we are assisting Penn State travelers with chronic diseases in CDC Level-2 Advisory countries with returning home, if they wish to do so.
- Penn State Global Safety officials are monitoring the situation around the clock. Any further travel restrictions will be communicated immediately to our travelers/students.
- Penn State has been in touch by email with all of our travelers currently abroad to share information on the coronavirus and what the University is doing to support them. We will continue communicating important information as needed.
- Penn State health care personnel at all campuses are obtaining the travel history for all patients. Based on their travel history, personnel are taking appropriate action. All patients with fever, cough or sore throat are being provided with masks, regardless of travel history.
As you can see, there are many complexities to consider as the global threat of COVID-19 evolves rapidly. 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.
I urge anyone with questions about COVID-19 or the University’s response to this virus to visit our site, which we will continue to update on an ongoing basis. And I ask that members of our community continue to support each other, especially those among us who have loved ones overseas suffering from or at risk of this disease.
Nicholas P. Jones