Across the U.S., universities are preparing their facilities, monitoring student populations, pre-empting study abroad programs and communicating with students, faculty and parents to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 on campus.
“With large groups of people sharing living spaces, classrooms, libraries and dining halls, colleges face unique challenges in managing contagious illnesses. ‘Universities are often the most global and we are often on the front lines of these situations,; said Dr. Sarah Van Orman, the associate vice provost for student health at the University of Southern California. The school has 6,626 students from China, the second-largest population of students from China in the U.S., according to the IIE….”
“USC started monitoring students who visit the university health center for symptoms of coronavirus more than three weeks ago, Van Orman said. The university, she added, ‘does not make decisions alone’ when it comes to isolation, quarantine or activating one of its emergency disease plans. ‘We are making the decisions with the local authorities and they have jurisdiction over the event.’ “
Van Orman stated in the MarketWatch article that many students who come to the health center worried they have COVID-19 end up being diagnosed with the flu, which is quite common during the winter months.
Consistent with federal advisories, Rutgers University in New Jersey is restricting all travel to China—this includes travel for university business such as (but not limited to) teaching, study abroad, conferences, presentations, internships, research, recruiting, and athletic competitions.
Princeton University, also in New Jersey, is following a New Jersey Department of Health recommendation asking faculty and students who have recently returned from China to self-quarantine if they are at moderate or high risk for contracting the illness.
Miami University in Ohio has posted online that students, faculty, or staff members who return to the U.S. from China after Sunday, Feb. 2 “will not be permitted to come to campus to work, attend class, or participate in any campus or community activity for 14 days after leaving mainland China.”
Meanwhile, Duke Kunshan University’s campus in China will be completing session 3 courses online and possibly session 4 courses the same way.
Like other universities, Duke has established a health communications hub online for its students, staff and parents. One recent link warns students about phishing emails that claim to be from the Centers for Disease Control with information about how to protect the students from the illness.
While the CDC doesn’t specifically address preventing the spread of COVID-19 in universities, the New Jersey Department of Health has released guidelines for New Jersey college campuses:
“Special sanitizing processes beyond routine cleaning, including closing schools to clean every surface in the building are not necessary or recommended to slow the spread of respiratory illness. Schools should follow standard procedures for routine cleaning and disinfecting with an EPA‐registered product. Typically, this means daily sanitizing surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, hands‐on learning items, faucet handles, phones and toys. How should schools prepare for the potential of coronavirus in their community? “
For more resources visit, The Centers for Disease Control , the World Health Organization and BOMA International’s Coronavirus Guide for facilities.