Georgetown Bans Travel to China Over Coronavirus Outbreak

February 10, 2020

The Georgetown administration issued a temporary moratorium on Jan. 28 for all university-related travel to China to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. The moratorium applies to all Georgetown students, faculty, and staff. 

The policy was announced by members of the university administration in an email to students. The email confirmed there have been no reported cases connected to the university. 

The ban was implemented a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned against all nonessential travel to China, and the U.S. Department of State issued an advisory to reconsider travel to China. On Feb. 2, the State Department increased its travel advisory level for China to “Do Not Travel.”

Novel coronavirus is a new type of coronavirus which first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. As of Feb. 7, over 30,000 patients have tested positive for coronavirus worldwide, with 12 confirmed cases in the United States. Part of the concern surrounding the outbreak stems from how quickly the crisis has escalated. “As a coronavirus, it is similar to SARS and MERS, but this is spreading faster than either,”  Rebecca Katz, director of the center for global health science, wrote in an email to the Voice

The university also announced it has reached out to students who were planning on studying in China this semester and members of the university in China. Arrangements are being made for the return of anybody remaining in the country, though there are no students or faculty members near Wuhan. 

“While we recognize that this decision will be a disappointment to those currently studying or planning to study in China this semester, it was made in the interest of the health and wellbeing of our community,” Provost Robert Groves wrote. 

In an email to the Voice, a university spokesperson noted the ban is limited in scope. “At the current moment, the temporary moratorium only applies to China,” the spokesperson wrote. “We highly recommend that travelers to neighboring countries or to other countries with a high number of confirmed coronavirus cases abide by U.S. government guidance.”

In addition to the moratorium, the university is collecting information on potential contact with the virus. In an email sent to students on Feb. 4, Dr. Vince WinklerPrins asked members of the university to fill out one of two surveys if they either traveled to China since Jan. 21 or if they were expecting visitors from China in the near future. 

“The results will be confidential and shared only with our emergency response team and public health officials, as appropriate,”  WinklerPrins wrote. “The information will be used to connect community members to individualized support and resources that ensure the health, safety and well-being of everyone in our community.”

Until there are further developments, the university will continue to enforce these preventive measures. “The university is taking proactive steps to ensure the safety and health of our community out of an abundance of caution,” Groves wrote. “There is still much about the situation that is unknown.”

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