Updated 02/02/2020, 7:40 p.m.: This article was updated to include a statement from the White House and the latest number of coronavirus cases in the United States.
Updated 02/03/2020, 3:48 p.m.: The number of students in China who contacted the university for late arrival accommodations was updated from nearly 30 to approximately 40.
On Friday, Jan. 31 around 6:30 p.m. the provost’s office sent out a campus-wide email to faculty, staff and students announcing that no requests for university-sponsored travel to China will be considered until alerts from the State Department are lifted.
This follows the notification that Stony Brook University is establishing “a mandatory pre-approval requirement” for university-sponsored travel to China, at the advice of the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the wake of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), according to a campus-wide email sent by the provost’s office on Thursday.
“Faculty, staff and students are urged to give serious evaluation before requesting travel to China as it will require pre-approval and only be granted for essential travel,” the email wrote. “Travel to China is considered high risk and no precautions are available to protect against the identified increased risk.”
The U.S. Department of State issued a travel advisory on Thursday — upping China to a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” — after the World Health Organization labeled the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
The advisory noted that travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions “to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.” Commercial airline carriers have already minimized or ceased routes to and from China. American Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Delta Airlines are among the companies reducing flights to China, according to a list compiled by Business Insider
The Department of State requested in the travel advisory that all non-essential U.S. government personnel put off travel to China. The department ordered the departure of government employees and their families from Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the outbreak — on Jan. 23. A Stony Brook professor was evacuated from Wuhan earlier this week, landing in Southern California on Wednesday.
The Chinese government is also tightening travel restrictions around the country, making it difficult for some Stony Brook students to make it back in time for classes. Approximately 40 students who are still in China contacted the university as of Feb. 2 to request late arrival accommodations or leaves of absences.
The CDC has also issued a level three travel notice advising against all nonessential travel to China.
The White House, in a press briefing on Friday, outlined the Trump Administration’s new restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus for travelers, including a mandatory quarantine for those traveling from the center of the outbreak. The restrictions went into effect on Sunday at 5 p.m.
“Any U.S. citizen returning to the United States who has been in Hubei Province in the previous 14 days will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine to ensure they are they are provided proper medical care and health screening,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said in the briefing.
The CDC, in conjunction with the Illinois State Department of Health, has confirmed the first U.S. case of human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus between a husband and wife, in a telebriefing on Thursday.
“This is not spreading widely in communities, and the general public is believed to be at low risk,” Dr. Ngozi O. Ezike, the director of the Illinois State Department of Public Health said in the telebriefing.
There have been eight confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States as of Feb 2. There are currently no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in New York. The state has sent samples from 12 individuals to the CDC for testing. Eleven results have come back negative and one is still pending.
Governor Andrew Cuomo pointed out in a press release on Thursday that the flu presents a more significant risk, as the number of confirmed flu cases and hospitalizations climb every week. A little more than 2,000 patients were hospitalized with the flu last week, 8% more than the previous week.
Stony Brook University personnel who plan to travel to China using research foundation funds must submit an electronic foreign travel request for approval, according to the email. Faculty or staff traveling on non research funds must apply for approval by submitting an International Travel Policy form to the president’s office.
The provost’s office referred readers to a webpage dedicated to information about the coronavirus and added in the email that the university “will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as appropriate.”