ETSU restricts international travel amid spread of novel coronavirus

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Mar 9, 2020 at 7:35 PM

East Tennessee State University suspended all outgoing university-related international travel until June 15 due to concerns over the rapid spread of COVID-19.  

“We’ve been monitoring the outbreak of COVID-19 for a couple of months and evaluating what the potential impact might be on university operations,” ETSU spokesman Joe Smith said following Monday’s new restrictions. 

“Because the health of our students, faculty and staff is our highest priority, we have decided to make this decision to suspend outgoing university-sponsored travel in light of what we’re hearing and seeing ...” 

In a Monday statement, ETSU President Brian Noland said the university is following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Tennessee Department of Health and the Washington County Health Department as officials continue to monitor the spread of the novel coronavirus.

As of Monday, the virus has infected more than 113,000 people in 110 countries, with numbers growing by the hour. About 80,000 of those cases have been in China, where the virus was first discovered in December. There have been nearly 4,000 deaths from the virus. 

In the United States, there have been nearly 610 infections and 22 deaths. Most of those deaths, except for two in Florida and one in California, happened in Washington state. So far, Tennessee health officials have reported four cases. There have been no recorded infections at ETSU or in Northeast Tennessee as of Monday afternoon. 

The ETSU travel restriction includes all travel related to teaching, study-abroad programs, research, internships, conferences, presentations, performances and athletics. Noland said ETSU will be continuously reassessing ETSU travel policy operations as the “rapidly changing” situation continues to evolve.

“The Office of International Programs is working one-on-one with students who are currently studying abroad. At this time, no restrictions are imposed for university-related domestic travel. For university-related international travel that is canceled, the university will assist with reimbursement of travel expenses on a case-by-case basis,” Noland’s statement read. 

From March 16-20, students at ETSU will be on spring break. Noland urged students “be mindful of the potential risks” especially when traveling internationally. 

“Continually changing travel restrictions may impact those seeking reentry to the United States and your ability to successfully return to class and/or work. Those returning from Level 2 or 3 CDC travel-notice areas will not be allowed to return to any ETSU campus or facility until they complete a 14-day self-quarantine and show no symptoms associated with COVID-19,” he said. 

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person through coughing or sneezing, usually between people who are in close contact with one another. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

For the latest ETSU updates on coronavirus recommendations and measures, visit www.etsu.edu/coronavirus. 

How to prevent infection, according to the CDC: 

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

• Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

• Wear a mask when taking care of someone in close settings with the virus.  

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after coughing or sneezing.

• If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

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