Higher Ed, News, public health

UNC increases COVID-19 precautions, travel restrictions during Spring Break

As students remain on Spring Break this week, UNC-Chapel Hill announced new precautions related to COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus.

In addition to Level 3 countries, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the school is now prohibiting University-affiliated travel to Level 2 countries. Anyone returning from Level 2 or 3 countries is expected to self-quarantine off campus for 14 days, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in an update to the campus community Monday.

Level 3 countries — to which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises no non-essential travel — include China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Venezuela.

Level 2 countries — in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises travelers to “practice enhanced precautions — also include Japan.

The university is also restricting university-related travel to cities and states that have declared a coronavirus state of emergency. That list now includes Austin and San Antonio in Texas, as well as the states of California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington.

Students and faculty returning from those countries after Spring Break, which lasts until March 16, are expected to self-report and self-quarantine. Students who fail to do so will not be given excused absences and could be subject to action from the Office of Student Conduct, Guskiewicz said in an update e-mail last week.

Though there are as yet no confirmed cases in the UNC system, the system office is working with individual campuses as they formulate their responses.

Five new cases of the virus were confirmed in North Carolina Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the state to seven. The five who most recently tested positive for COVID-19 all attended the same Biogen corporate management conference in Boston last month, Wake County officials said Monday. More than 30 infections have now been tied to the conference, which hosted about 175 managers from around the world.

“It’s important to note that, even if the risks associated with COVID-19 are low for many individuals in our community, it is critical we all do our part to limit transmission and ensure the safety of everyone on our campus and in our communities,” Monday’s update read. “Limiting travel is one way the University is actively trying to do that, which is why we are issuing the following updated travel restrictions for students, faculty and staff.”

The university system is monitoring the national and international situation surrounding the virus and issuing updates as necessary.

“We are also developing a series of contingency plans that may apply to several different scenarios if the need arises to protect your safety and that of others on campus, and to ensure essential operations continue, even if work arrangements or staffing levels change,” Guskiewicz wrote Monday.

Those preparations may eventually include working and teaching remotely, Guskiewicz wrote.

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