Provost Lisa Lynch announced new travel restrictions regarding Italy, Iran and South Korea and their corresponding travel advisory levels in two updates sent to the Brandeis community this past week. A follow up email from the Brandeis Health Center also announced a website that deals with the University’s response to the new coronavirus.

The COVID-19, short for Coronavirus Disease 2019, is more commonly known as the coronavirus. “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has changed the travel advisory for Korea on Feb. 24 to ‘Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel—Widespread Community Transmission,’” Lynch wrote in a Feb. 26 email. At the time, China was the only other country with this level of travel advisory in place, while Italy and Japan were considered to be at “Level 2,” meaning that people should “Practice Enhanced Precautions” when travelling to these countries. 

This warning was a recommendation specifically for older adults and those who have chronic medical conditions to avoid travelling to those countries. Within Italy, officials had restricted travel in certain areas in the northern parts of the country. As of Wednesday, the University expanded its prior ban on travel to mainland China to also include South Korea. Lynch added that although the ban is technically for official University business, “we strongly recommend that those who are planning travel to Korea or China for personal reasons reconsider such plans.” She said that bans will not be lifted until it is safe to do so in accordance with guidance from the United States State Department and the CDC.

However, the state fo the virus changed on Friday as the CDC upgraded Iran and Italy to “Level 3” warnings. Lynch announced in a follow-up email on March 1 that “we are restricting all Brandeis students, faculty, and staff from traveling on official university business to Italy, Iran, South Korea and mainland China.” She encouraged students who are within 14 days of travel in Italy, Iran and South Korea to self-monitor their symptoms. If they have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing over that time period, Lynch said, students should contact the Brandeis Health Center.

Administrative Director of the Health Center and Nurse Practitioner Diana Denning elaborated in an email to the Justice on Feb. 27 that the University’s health center is “following guidelines from [the] CDC for screening, testing, transportation, quarantine etc. The school has protocols for supporting quarantine and isolation if needed and [the] CDC has posted helpful guidelines on that as well. We have been and continue to work with MDPH [W]altham DPH and local emergency providers.” 

The new website serves as a “central location” to find information about the outbreak and updates, per the March 2 email from the Health Center. Among other steps, Brandeis is “prepared to provide housing and other care should students need to quarantine or isolate on campus,” per the Health Center’s website.

The March email also informed students that “Any student who needs emotional support should contact the Brandeis Counseling Center.” It also reiterated that the University is committed to maintaining a fair environment for its students, calling bias and discrimination toward those who “observers think may be” from regions that were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 an “unfortunate aspect” of the illness. 

In a Feb. 28 email to the Justice, Associate Dean of Study Abroad J. Scott Van Der Meid discussed how the Office of Study Abroad is monitoring the situation around the world. He said that as the situation around the world evolves, there is a possibility that a program may be suspended by one of Brandeis’ partners. 

“Should a program decide to suspend operations for the semester, we will work with students to consider alternate means to maintain academic progress following the options set out by their respective programs or universities,” he wrote.

Van Der Meid said that the OSA “works closely and communicates frequently with its affiliate program partners abroad (program providers and host universities) to continuously monitor this fluid situation.” Program partners have been updating Brandeis and the students abroad with information regarding health and safety measures, as well as precautions that need to be taken. In addition, Van Der Meid said that the University has been in touch with students should they want to connect further. There has been an emphasis on communication with students in affected areas,  this week in particular with students in South Korea and Italy. 

“We are closely monitoring the situation in Japan as some programs do not start their semester until the end of March,” Van Der Meid said. The OSA has a website page with updates about COVID-19 and its effects on study abroad. 

“Please remember to treat each other with extra care, concern and respect as we all navigate this situation together as a community,” the Health Center email concluded.

In her March 1 email, Lynch said that University leaders will be “communicating daily and meeting weekly to monitor the situation, refine short- and long-term contingency plans, and respond rapidly to emerging issues related to the coronavirus.”

In an email to her subscribers, Congresswoman Katherine Clark of the 5th District of Massachusetts where Brandeis is located said she is “working with her collegues in the House of Representatives to advance a strategic funding package that fully addresses the scale of this growing public health concern.”