Growing concern for the coronavirus places study abroad programs on hold

By Elena Naze

The college halted its study abroad programs in the Asia-Pacific region following the World Health Organization declaring the coronavirus as a global health emergency on Jan. 30, according to college officials.

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One Emerson student planned on studying in China this term, Director of Education Abroad and Domestic Programs David Griffin told The Beacon. The student planned on going to China through Boston University, but due to the program’s cancellation, the student decided to study in Ireland instead.

Boston health officials announced the first n-CoV case in the state on Feb. 1. The patient, a University of Massachusetts Boston student, had recently returned from Wuhan, China. The Boston Public Health Commission wrote in a statement to The Beacon that despite the confirmed case in Boston, the risk to the general public remains low. According to World Health Organization, the death toll now stands at 812 victims in mainland China—officially surpassing the SARS epidemic of 2002-2003.

Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Jim Hoppe said the college will communicate all information surrounding n-CoV via Emerson Today. In the event of an outbreak on or around campus, Hoppe said there is an existing protocol to respond.

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“If it’s something that happens on campus, to a certain [extent] we have the ability to support a small number of individuals who might be ill,” Hoppe said in an interview.

Jane Powers, director of the Center for Health and Wellness, said if students require isolation, there are often single rooms in residence halls where students can seclude themselves.

To prevent the virus, Powers suggested students pay attention to their health, stay home if they feel sick, and treat prevention for n-CoV like any other illness. Powers also mentioned if students are worried they may have n-CoV, especially those who visited China or other high-risk areas over break, the timing of their symptoms might determine whether or not they have it.

“For students who may have traveled over break, if they’ve been back for two weeks or more and they haven’t had symptoms, then it’s not likely to be related to [the coronavirus],” Powers said.

Griffin said he can’t remember a similar situation occurring before in over 30 years of working with the study abroad program.

“This is a fairly unique situation,” Griffin said. “Primarily because there’s no vaccine. We’ve certainly had years where the flu has been particularly bad, but usually, you can get people the vaccination.”