Connecticut colleges and universities are taking extreme measures to protect students and staff as concerns of coronavirus becoming widespread stateside continue to spread.
With federal health officials declaring it’s become a matter of “when, not if,” the virus will spread to the United States, area institutions - including colleges and universities - are taking measures to protect themselves.
With the outbreak spreading to Italy, Fairfield University is reportedly pulling students studying abroad and bringing them back home as a precaution. It also temporarily closed the Florence University of the Arts program.
A spokesperson reportedly said the university, “did not take this decision lightly. We know that the enriching learning experiences students gain from being in Florence for a semester are an important part of their formation.
There were a number of factors that went into this decision that included health and safety, risk of country quarantines, potential loss of academic credits, as well as timing within the semester.”
The University of New Haven and the University of Connecticut have also canceled classes and planned trips abroad. Sacred Heart University has also canceled a planned choir trip to Rome.
“We hope to reschedule the trip, but for now, the health and safety of the choir and the entire SHU community is our priority,” school officials said in a statement.
The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system said all student trips to China and South Korea have been canceled indefinitely.
It is unclear if other colleges in Connecticut will alter any of their overseas students’ travel plans as they continue monitoring the situation and spread of the coronavirus.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and are taking proper precautions in close consultation with the CDC, the Department of Public Health, and other public health officials," Connecticut state colleges and universities officials said in a statement.
"Most importantly, we continue to remind students, faculty, and staff to wash their hands regularly and to stay home if they are sick."
With panic spreading like the virus itself, Connecticut officials have come out to assuage the concerns of area residents.
“There is no reason for Americans to panic,” Congressman John Larson said in a statement.”We must come together as a nation to address this potential pandemic.
"I call on President Trump to appoint a head liaison to lead this effort as President Obama did when the Ebola virus first surfaced.
“This should be an interagency effort and everyone must pull together and cooperate to work first to get a diagnosis system in place and then a treatment system. Pulling together to address oncoming issues is what Americans do.”
This week, the Connecticut Emergency Management Association (CEMA) called on Gov. Ned Lamont to take immediate action to ensure the state is prepared for the expected spread of coronavirus.
“CEMA is asking for more supplies, like face masks, gloves, gowns, and more; requesting the Federal Dept. of Labor temporarily ‘suspend any requirements for public safety and definitive care healthcare providers to conduct “fit testing” for employees who wear N95 particulate filtering masks;’ and consider partially activating the State Emergency Operation Center.”
As of Wednesday, Feb. 26, according to the World Health Organization, there have been 80,239 confirmed cases of coronavirus around the globe. Of those, 229 were reported in Italy (105 new cases) and 53 (18 new) have been reported in the United States, though none in Connecticut.
The WHO risk assessment remains “very high” in China, and “high” globally and regionally.
According to WHO, to help limit the spread of coronavirus:
- Limit human-to-human transmission including reducing secondary infections among close contacts and health care workers, preventing transmission amplification events, and preventing further international spread from China;
- Identify, isolate and care for patients early, including providing optimized care for infected patients;
- Identify and reduce transmission from the animal source;
- Address crucial unknowns regarding clinical severity, extent of transmission and infection, treatment options, and accelerate the development of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines;
- Communicate critical risk and event information to all communities and counter misinformation;
- Minimize social and economic impact through multisectoral partnerships.
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