Chicago Tribune (Sunday)

State universiti­es halting travel plans, programs in China

- By Dawn Rhodes drhodes@chicagotri­bune. com

As the global outbreak of coronaviru­s grows, Illinois universiti­es have gone from urging caution to shut-down mode.

Some schools have extensive ties to China, connection­s that go beyond recruiting thousands of Chinese students to local campuses each year. Some operate satellite campuses and centers in the country, and sponsor multiple travel abroad trips each year.

Much of that activity now is halting in an effort to protect students and staff, both here and in China. Here’s a closer look.

University of Chicago

The Hyde Park-based institutio­n has closed its Center in Beijing and Yuen Campus in Hong Kong at least through Feb. 17, according to a note this week from Provost Daniel Diermeier. A university spokespers­on was not immediatel­y available to provide more details about how many people are affected by those closures.

University leaders will reassess whether to relaunch programmin­g depending on how the situation develops, Diermeier said.

Meanwhile, university leaders are strongly discouragi­ng any travel to mainland China and Hong Kong.

“Because of quarantine measures that are taking effect in China and the U.S., the University may not be able to effectivel­y assist travelers attempting to return from China,” Diermeier said.

U. of C. officials continue to urge students here to contact the campus health center if they are sick or have questions and concerns, according to a note sent to the campus last week.

Any patient who presents with respirator­y symptoms and a fever will be asked if they’ve traveled to the Wuhan area within the past few weeks or have been in close contact with someone known or suspected to have been sickened by coronaviru­s.

Patients who answer yes will be given a face mask and moved into an isolation room, Dr. Emily Landon wrote in a Qand-A for UChicago Medicine. The isolation room is designed to keep airborne germs inside. Then patients will be tested for the virus.

Results take about four days, and patients will need to remain isolated until they are cleared by physicians, Landon said.

Northweste­rn University

All university-sponsored travel to China is prohibited for undergradu­ate and graduate students, officials said Friday. Planned trips to China during spring break will be moved to other locations.

Spokesman Bob Rowley said since Northweste­rn is on the quarter system, winter is not a peak time for travel and study abroad to China for its students. Rowley said no undergradu­ates currently are enrolled in Chinabased programs. Only one graduate student is registered to conduct research in China, and that person has relocated to Hong Kong.

“We are lucky not to have to be withdrawin­g students from China at this time because of this situation,” Rowley said.

Beyond that, Rowley said, Northweste­rn leaders are trying to reach out to its Chinese students on campus to offer support for those who have family back home in China affected by the outbreak.

“We are particular­ly concerned about our Chinese students and sent a message to them in Mandarin yesterday to let them know that like all of our students, their safety and security is of the utmost importance to the University,” he said. “Our first priority is trying to ensure the safety and security of all our students, especially those at risk of contractin­g the virus, but that also means ensuring the safety and well-being of students from China here who are worried about their families and friends back home and need our support. We want our community members to feel supported and not stigmatize­d.”

University of Illinois

All academic programs to China are suspended for the spring 2020 semester, Provost Andreas C. Cangellari­s announced in a campus email Thursday. Students will not be allowed to travel to China while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisories are in effect, Cangellari­s said.

“This decision will affect only a very small number of students studying with partner universiti­es in China,” Cangellari­s wrote. “The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is in contact with those students and will work with them to adjust their academic plans for the semester.”

Faculty and staff are not banned from traveling, but university officials are urging them to carefully consider the federal advisories before traveling.

“The concern is the spread of the coronaviru­s, as well as logistic difficulti­es experience­d as China implements containmen­t measures,” Cangellari­s said.

U. of I. has one of the largest population of Chinese students in the U.S., with about 5,900 students enrolled as of this fall.

Once the virus was linked to Wuhan, university health officials worked to identify and contact those students with ties to the area. Dr. Bob Parker, director of the McKinley Health Center, contacted each student individual­ly — about 150 total — to inform them about symptoms linked to the virus and urge them to visit the health center if they were feeling ill.

Many of them had not traveled home for winter break and thus were not at higher risk of contractin­g the virus. For those who did travel, many have chosen on their own to wear surgical masks, self-quarantine and carefully monitor their health, Parker said.

Thus far, no students with ties to Wuhan have shown signs of sickness.

One person has been evaluated at the health center for possible symptoms, but physicians determined that person did not have the illness, Parker said.

University leaders are strongly discouragi­ng any travel to mainland China and Hong Kong.

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