In response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak, Penn is suspending all University–affiliated travel to China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Provost Wendell Pritchett, Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives Ezekiel Emanuel, and Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé sent a University–wide email on Monday afternoon, strongly recommending that Penn students and faculty avoid personal travel to these countries. With spring break beginning on March 7, administrators also asked students to rethink any international travel plans, which can increase the risk of exposure to coronavirus.
According to the email, Penn has created a University–wide task force to review and update the “existing pandemic planning procedure.” The task force is led by Dr. Dubé and Michael Fink, Deputy Chief for Tactical and Emergency Readiness at Penn Police. The email states that Dubé and Fink will continue to work with Penn experts, the CDC, and other government agencies.
The CDC has issued a level three warning for China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea and advises travelers to avoid nonessential travel to these countries. The entry of foreign nationals from China and Iran has also been suspended.
According to the email, the University is in touch with students who are studying abroad and is advising them to come home. On Feb. 28, Penn Abroad sent an email to students studying at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy to help facilitate their departure from the city and continue their studies online. Some students, however, have chosen to stay in hopes that their schools will reopen. These students must sign an acknowledgment of risk waiver from Penn.
Many Penn students have already canceled their spring break trips to countries like Italy, Spain, France, and England due to fears of facing quarantine upon returning to the United States. Asian Penn students raised concerns over racist or xenophobic attacks while abroad because of the coronavirus’ origins in China.
The University recommends that if members of the Penn community do travel to any countries with a significant outbreak, they self–isolate for 14 days before returning to campus, according to the email. Penn staff, students, and faculty should also register all Penn-related travel so that the University can provide assistance in case of an emergency.
Since its detection in Wuhan, China in December 2019, the novel coronavirus has killed more than 3,000 people and infected more than 88,000 people, according to CNN. In January, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak an international public health emergency.