Coronavirus: Abroad and at home, what it means for students

Noah Pasley

It’s been over two months since the coronavirus outbreak was initially detected in Wuhan, China, but the effects have continued to ripple through communities abroad, here in the United States and, now, right in your own backyard. 

While COVID-19 has been detected in over 80 countries, and 164 cases and 11 deaths have been recorded across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of cases reported in Colorado has risen to eight as of March 6, according to The Denver Post.

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cover your cough sign in CSU medical center
The Colorado State University Health and Medical Center provides primary care for community members, as well as CSU students and faculty. According to CSU Health and Medical Center Pharmacy Technician Alan Feuerstein, face masks are predicted to be out of stock until March 19, according to their wholesaler, and only patients will be given the masks until they’re back in stock. (Anna von Pechmann | The Collegian)

In an email to The Collegian, Dell Rae Ciaravola, public safety and risk communications manager at Colorado State University, wrote that CSU currently has no students studying abroad in China. However, students studying abroad in Italy were asked to return home on Feb. 29, according to a statement uploaded to the website for International Programs.

According to the website, the decision to ask students to return from Italy was based on the CDC’s level 3 “avoid nonessential travel” notice for Italy, the U.S. Department of State’s level 3 “reconsider travel” warning and other signs that further restrictions would come.

“One concern is that in a pandemic, travel restrictions are often put in place, making it difficult for people to leave or return home,” Ciaravola wrote. “International Programs watches for signs like the travel warnings mentioned in the statement that these restrictions may be coming.”

Italy Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree to quarantine northern Italy starting Sunday in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Lombardy and 14 other central and northern Italian provinces are affected. This includes Milan and Venice, according to a March 8 update from the BBC.

Ayelet Golz, communications manager for International Programs, said CSU is working with international partners to ensure students can take enough credits to stay on track for graduation. However, for students in Italy, Golz said program charges were paid directly to international partners. 

“CSU is doing all that (it) can to advocate for refunds,” Golz said. “Many of the partners have said they are working on refunds, and we hope to have more details in the coming weeks.”

I’m so sad to have to leave my semester early. I’ve been planning this since before college, but seeing how this situation is rapidly escalating, I understand why we have to come home.” -Nora Anderson, junior, CSU

Nora Anderson, a junior journalism and media communication major, was one such student who needed to return home from Italy. She described the situation as “heartbreaking” in an email to The Collegian.

“We had learned from a few of our friends (we’re) being pulled from the program, … so we half-expected it, but it was still really hard,” Anderson wrote. “Nevertheless, this entire situation is heartbreaking in so many ways. I’m so sad to have to leave my semester early. I’ve been planning this since before college, but seeing how this situation is rapidly escalating, I understand why we have to come home.”

Anderson wrote that people need to understand that while COVID-19 may be affecting them directly as it is in her situation, it is still a serious issue that many people are hurting from.

“Be respectful of that, and please wash your hands!” Anderson wrote.

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cover your cough sign in CSU medical center
The Colorado State University Health and Medical Center. According to CSU Health and Medical Center Pharmacy Technician Alan Feuerstein, “Wearing a mask is going to protect anything you might have from getting spread to somebody else versus protecting you from catching something somebody else has.” If you get sick, you can schedule appointments at the Medical Center online. (Anna von Pechmann | The Collegian)

Semester at Sea’s spring voyage was also diverted several times, wrote Layne Hanson, vice president of public affairs at the Institute for Shipboard Education, in an email to The Collegian. The updated schedule diverts from anticipated port stops in Malaysia and India due to “uncertainty regarding the spread of the coronavirus,” according to the SAS website.

After diverting from India, it was announced the ship would stop over in Seychelles, but this plan was canceled after the Seychelles Port Authority denied the MV World Odyssey, the SAS ship, entry. The ship ported in Mauritius Feb. 29 for a day, left Mauritius and then returned to Mauritius where students stayed March 3-7 after considering a stop in Mozambique.

The MV World Odyssey is currently on its way to South Africa, but stops in Ghana and Morocco have been dropped from the original schedule. Instead, the ship is currently scheduled to spend two days in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain, and from there, the ship will head to Amsterdam, where it will disembark.

Hanson wrote that it is important to note that the Semester at Sea office is in “constant contact” with health partners around the world and in countries on the itinerary, and additional programmatic and mental health support has been added for voyagers.

“This is, understandably, a difficult situation for our voyagers and their families,” Hanson said. “Our shipboard community has been incredibly resilient and supportive of each other through these changes.”

In an email to all students, faculty and staff March 8, the Public Safety Team announced new travel restrictions. Among the updates were suspensions for all non-essential faculty, staff and student international travel.

Additionally, anyone — including students, staff, faculty, visitors and guests — returning to campus or a CSU facility from a CDC alert level 2 or 3 country must self-isolate for 14 days before conducting business with the University or being allowed in a University facility.

All students currently studying abroad may continue to do so in their locations, but they may be asked to return home as the COVID-19 situation changes in the countries in which they are studying, according to the email.

Travel over spring break to countries with high-level travel alerts is strongly discouraged, and students may be required to self-isolate or be quarantined upon their return to campus depending on public health concerns over their travel destinations. At this time, summer study abroad programs have not been canceled. 

As a precaution, faculty and instructors have been asked to begin preparing that system with their courses, should the University need to limit in-person classes.” -Dell Rae Ciaravola, public safety and risk communications manager, CSU

Ciaravola added that, currently, there are no plans to move toward providing classes online, but CSU has systems in place for online instruction.

“As a precaution, faculty and instructors have been asked to begin preparing that system with their courses, should the University need to limit in-person classes,” Ciaravola wrote. 

CSU President Joyce McConnell, in an email to all employees and students, said to be supportive of other students, as many have been impacted by the spread of COVID-19, adding that “CSU is recognized as a leader in research concerning the transmission of disease from animals to humans.” 

washing hands
Washing hands before touching one’s face or eating is a good practice, particularly when it comes to protecting oneself against disease. (Photo Illustration by Anna von Pechmann | The Collegian)

“Since January, this coronavirus has spread worldwide,” McConnell wrote in the email. “Let’s be mindful and support all of the members of the CSU community who may have friends and family in the countries impacted.”

McConnell also wrote that everyone should remember COVID-19 is a public health issue and “not the fault of any person, any country or any ethnic group.”

“We have been hearing from some of our students, faculty and staff who identify as Asian and Asian American that they have been subjected to hateful and xenophobic treatment these last few weeks,” McConnell wrote. “This treatment — whether via words or actions, publicly or privately expressed — is racist and wrong.”

She also added information about resources for those affected by “race-based behavior,” such as Story Circle at the Asian/Pacific American Cultural Center located in Lory Student Center Room 333 on Mondays from 4-5:30 p.m.

Story Circle is a weekly supportive space for students who identify as Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern and Asian American, as well as mixed race and biracial students, according to APACC’s website.

Anyone concerned about catching respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19 should heed recommendations from the CDC, such as cleaning hands often either by washing them with soap and water for 20 seconds or by using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if washing hands is not an immediate possibility. 

The CDC also recommends having supplies on hand, such as household items and groceries, as well as asking a health care provider about obtaining necessary medications in case there is an outbreak and staying at home for a prolonged period of time is an eventuality.

Noah Pasley can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @PasleyNoah.