Scott Young, News Editor
The Jacksonville State University president’s office announced in an email Tuesday night that all university-sponsored international travel would be suspended indefinitely due to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19. The policy does not apply to personal travel.
“We have been in communication with the students and faculty that are currently abroad,” said Don Killingsworth, the acting president of JSU. “As we move forward and with safety at the forefront of all decision making, we will continue to evaluate their current location, situation, and preferences.”
The university administration said they made the decision in consultation with Dr. Jeff Ryan, a biosecurity expert from the JSU department of emergency management, as well as data from both state and federal public health agencies.
“We deeply value our cultural exchange programs and regret the disappointment this decision will cause among those planning trips abroad,” the email read. “However, the health and safety of our students and employees – as well as the local community – is always JSU’s top priority.”
The university said that they are considering reimbursement claims on a “case-by-case basis” for those who have already made arrangements to participate in university-sponsored international trips.
“We hope to not only prevent the continued spread of infectious disease but also prevent our students, faculty and staff from becoming quarantined abroad,” the email explained. “While this policy does not apply to personal travel, we urge all faculty, staff and students to practice caution and continue to monitor travel advisories and restrictions before traveling abroad.”
The coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, China and has since spread to several European countries including Austria, Croatia, Switzerland, Spain, France and Germany. Almost all reports from those countries involved people who had recently returned from travel to Italy. As many as 80,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, a top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that health experts predict that the coronavirus will spread in the United States.
“We expect we will see community spread in this country,” said Messonnier. “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”
To prevent illness, the CDC advises people to avoid close contact with those who are sick, stay home when you are sick and wash your hands regularly. For more information about the coronavirus, visit http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/.