JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Officials at East Tennessee State University said all outgoing university-related international travel is suspended beginning Monday through June 15.
An e-mail signed from ETSU President Brian Noland made its way to the university’s faculty, staff and students Monday amid the ongoing concerns about the spread of coronavirus.
ETSU spokesperson Joe Smith said the decision came after weeks of watching the virus spread across the world.
“This is applicable to university-sponsored traveling, that could be going to attend a conference, going to present research at a conference, present a paper at an international meeting, that is what we’re talking about there, or study abroad trips that are planned to begin during that window of time,” Smith said Monday.
While there have been no cases of the virus diagnosed in our region or at ETSU, Smith said the decision came after officials evaluated how the university could be impacted by the virus.
He added that this doesn’t affect personal travel, but said students, faculty and staff should keep up with travel guidelines established through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while making vacation plans for spring break, which begins in a week.
He said staying mindful is key, and the ETSU community should keep in mind that a lot can change in just a few days.
“(You) could go into a location that right now is fine, but that could change in the course of a week and someone could be impacted in their ability to get back home and resume their activities on campus,” Smith said.
“The plan for today could change within a few days, this is where we are now.”
Smith said the university also contracted extra sanitation services for some of the most heavily-trafficked buildings on campus like the D.P Culp Center, Sherrod Library and Basler Center for Physical Activity.
“We’re following those (CDC) guidelines, but also just driving home the important message of prevention things such as handwashing, and just to encourage people to be mindful, but this is not something to panic over,” Smith said.
He added that there are still about 12 ETSU students studying in Europe. Officials continue to monitor the situation, he said, but for the time being, the students will stay and continue their studies abroad.
Last week, four students returned from studying in Italy after the virus began spreading across the country.
The country has since locked 16 million people down in a country-wide quarantine in an effort to control the spread of the virus.
Officials said in the email that “the university will assist with the reimbursement of travel expenses on a case-by-case basis” for any trips or travel plans that are impacted by the suspension.
The email said that anyone returning from an area deemed by the CDC as a Level 2 or 3 travel health notice “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.”
As of Monday, the CDC listed Japan at a Level 2 travel health notice, with “sustained (ongoing) community transmission,” and China, Iran, South Korea and Italy at Level 3 notices for “widespread (ongoing) transmission” of the virus, and to limit “non-essential” travel to those countries.
The CDC notes that entry to the United States from China and Iran is restricted at this time.
The university has dedicated a website page for coronavirus-related updates, accessible on the etsu homepage or at etsu.edu/coronavirus.
You can read the full e-mail below:
Dear ETSU Community,
As we continue to monitor the COVID-19 virus, please be assured that East Tennessee State University is following recommendations put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Tennessee Department of Health, and the Washington County Health Department. At this time, there have been no cases of the virus diagnosed at ETSU. However, as the coronavirus continues to spread, the health and safety of the ETSU community remain top priority.
Effective March 9, the university is suspending all outgoing university-related international travel through June 15. This includes all travel related to teaching, study-abroad programs, research, internships, conferences, presentations, performances, and athletics. The university will be continuously reassessing its operations in light of the evolving COVID-19 situation. 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.
With the university spring break March 16-20, members of the ETSU community are expected to follow travel guidance from the CDC in addition to any treatment or monitoring by any health official. Please keep in mind that if you are planning personal travel, the university strongly recommends that you be mindful of the potential risk of disruptions to your plans, especially those 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. The university requires that all individuals adhere to the Tennessee Department of Health regulations and restrictions related to travel.
We have created a dedicated website at www.etsu.edu/coronavirus to provide the latest updates on recommendations and measures that we put in place to address this rapidly changing situation
I appreciate how many offices and facets of our campus and community at large have pulled together to address the precautions and daily questions that arise due to the coronavirus. This is not a time to panic; instead, it is a situation that requires that we all work together to ensure that we do our best to prevent the spread of the virus by following everyday preventive actions recommended by the CDC. We should remember that ETSU is an institution where people come first and are treated with dignity and respect. We are a diverse and inclusive university, therefore, it is important that we consider how our actions and words concerning the virus outbreak may be perceived by members of our community who are personally affected. We must all ensure that ETSU remains a safe, positive and productive learning environment for all.
President, East Tennessee State University