Stony Brook University is implementing a “mandatory pre-approval requirement” for university-sponsored trips to Italy, Iran and South Korea, according to a campus-wide email sent on Feb. 29.
The university is discouraging all travel to those countries after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its travel guidance to advise against “all non-essential travel” on Feb. 28.
Stony Brook implemented similar travel restrictions to China, where the outbreak first started, in late January. Most of the more than 85,000 coronavirus cases worldwide are in China, according to a Feb. 29 Al Jazeera article.
Faculty, students and staff planning university-related travel must submit a form on the “Travel Policy” page of the Office of Global Affairs’ website to the president’s office for approval. Travel using Research Foundation funds must be approved by the research foundation operations manager through the eFTR system.
Pre-approval was already required for university-travel to Iran, which has historically tense relations with the U.S., especially after a U.S.-ordered strike that killed Iranian General, Qassem Soleimani, in early January.
The New York Times reported on Feb. 28 that the Iran government is listing 388 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 34 deaths.
The country is denying a Feb. 28 BBC report that the country has seen at least 210 deaths from the coronavirus so far. At least seven government officials were diagnosed with the illness, including a Health Ministry deputy who was “leading the coronavirus response,” according to the same New York Times article.
Bloomberg reported on Feb. 29 that confirmed coronavirus cases in Italy reached more than 1,000 in just over a week, with 29 possibly related deaths. Schools in the Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna regions have been shut down.
Stony Brook University will not be suspending its Florence University of the Arts program which will be continuing classes as usual. There have not been reports of any outbreak in the university’s region.
“Students who wish to return can do so at their own discretion and cost,” Interim Provost Minghua Zhang wrote in the email. “We are in contact with our students in Korea to ensure they’re aware of all options available to them, including returning to campus with academic accommodations.”
The Wall Street Journal reported on Feb. 29 that there are more than 800 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Korea.
SUNY Korea, which is operated in partnership with Stony Brook University, is delaying the start of its spring semester to March 2, and the first two weeks of lecture will be delivered online. Students are not required to come to campus during that period.
The university is requiring students and staff to wear face masks, in addition to strongly encouraging students to frequently wash their hands and “abstain from going out to public places or meeting in large groups.”
Only two Stony Brook undergraduate students are studying at SUNY Korea this semester, according to the university’s spring enrollment headcount. CollegeXpress estimates that about 540 students are enrolled there overall.
Stony Brook University plans to continue to follow U.S. Department of State and CDC guidelines “related to our students currently in countries that are under Level 2 or Level 3 CDC travel precautions.”
There are no confirmed coronavirus cases in New York, though Nassau County is currently monitoring 83 people. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Feb. 29 that the state’s coronavirus test was approved by the FDA and that testing would begin immediately.
There are just 15 confirmed cases in the United States, with the first coronavirus-related death in Washington State near Seattle on Feb. 29.
The university’s Student Support Team, Office of Global Affairs, China Center, and the Provost’s Office are working with students who are restricted from returning to the university due to travel restrictions, according to the email. Approximately 40 students are still in China following the coronavirus’s initial outbreak there this winter.
Zhang wrote in the campus-wide email that students, faculty or staff returning from affected countries, or anyone who’s come into close contact with a person being tested for the coronavirus, should stay home and “seek medical attention immediately.” Students should call 631-632-6740 to make an appointment at the Student Health Center.
“Many students, faculty and staff have already been directly impacted by the travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 and are concerned about their family and friends in the countries affected,” Zhang wrote. “This is a time when our community must come together to support those affected by this outbreak and show compassion and respect.” Zhang advised anyone looking for more information to visit the CDC website or go to the university Coronavirus Information page and the Stony Brook Medicine Coronavirus information page.