Students who planned to study abroad in China this semester will instead study at Penn due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé wrote in an emailed statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Dubé wrote that he originally delivered the announcement to the University Council on Wednesday, reassuring council members that the "risk to the Penn community continues to be very low." Penn Global, University of Pennsylvania Health System, and other University offices have been working together over the past 10 days to address the impact of the outbreak.
“This is a quickly evolving situation and I want to assure members of the Penn community that we are diligently monitoring the situation with our partners across campus, in the Health System, and in the City of Philadelphia," Dubé wrote. "We are extremely fortunate to have access to world-class resources and expertise."
Dubé added that other students studying in Southeast Asia have also chosen to return to Penn.
An email sent by Provost Wendell E. Pritchett, Executive Vice President Craig R. Carnaroli, and Dubé on Jan. 24 to the Penn community stated that all students who traveled to China within the last 14 days and developed a cough, fever, or difficulty breathing should contact Student Health Service immediately.
“Most students who traveled to China over winter break have now met or passed the 14-day incubation period associated with the novel coronavirus,” Dubé wrote.
The new strain of coronavirus – a large, very common, family of viruses – was detected by Chinese authorities on Dec. 31, according to The Washington Post. The New York Times reported that over 7,700 cases and over 170 deaths have been recorded. The disease has spread to 16 countries, including the United States, prompting China to suspend all travel from the city of Wuhan and place travel restrictions on at least 12 other cities and more than 50 million citizens in China, according to the Times.
Director of Campus Health Ashlee Halbritter said in an interview with the DP on Jan. 26 that Campus Health, Study Abroad Office, International Student and Scholar Services, and Penn Global are working together to communicate with Chinese international students and students currently studying, planning to study, or traveling abroad in the near future.
Since then, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its travel warning to the highest level, advising against all “non-essential travel to China,” on Monday, Dubé wrote. The State Department advised against traveling to Hubei Province, China on Tuesday, according to Dubé.
On Tuesday, William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia announced that a Chinese exchange student suspected of having the coronavirus had tested negative, according to 6ABC Action News.
Within the United States, there are currently five confirmed cases: two in southern California and one each in Chicago, Arizona, and Washington, according to CNN. Five U.S. airports have since begun screening all passengers coming from China for the coronavirus, NBC5 Chicago reported.
While the United States only has five confirmed cases in four states, over 100 patients in 26 different states have been tested for the coronavirus, according to NBC News.
Campus Health and Penn Global will continue to update their websites with information on the coronavirus and how it will impact students, according to Dubé.