KENT, Ohio — Kent State University is restricting school-sponsored travel to China "until further notice" in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that has infected thousands of people.
In an email obtained by KentWired, interim Senior Vice President and Provost Melody Tankersley said the measures are being put in place "out of an abundance of caution" and follow guidelines suggested by the U.S. Department of State. There are currently no study abroad trips or additional Chinese visitors scheduled for this semester, but the university will decide next month whether planned summer trips will take place.
"As always, the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors are our top priority," Dr. Tankersley wrote.
Students will not be banned from going to China on their own, including those at KSU who are from the country but studying in the U.S. However, officials are advising against "all nonessential travel" to the Asian nation.
Nearly 20,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus since its origination in Wuhan, Hubei in China, with more than 400 dying from the disease. While the vast majority of those cases have been in the Far East, the illness has spread to other nations, including a handful of cases in the United States.
In response to the outbreak, the Trump administration has declared a public health emergency and has temporarily barred all foreign nationals who have recently visited China from coming to the U.S. unless they are seeing a direct relative. Several air and cruise lines are also restricting travel in the country, and Kent State is advising all students who have been to China within the last two weeks to contact the school's DeWeese Health Center for a checkup.
The Ohio Department of Health confirmed a Chicago man who has since been diagnosed with the coronavirus visited Cleveland just before showing symptoms, and two students at Miami University in Oxford were tested for the illness but were shown not to have it. At this time, no Ohio residents are under investigation for the virus.
"Please help your faculty, staff and students to be mindful of the stresses our community members may be feeling and be sensitive to, and show, care for them," Tankersley said in regard to international students who may have relatives in China. "Remember, Flashes take care of Flashes."