Penn State restricts University-affiliated student travel to China

January 30, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State has placed China on the restricted list for University-affiliated international travel for students and is urging faculty and staff to reconsider their travel to the country until the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, “2019-nCoV,” is contained. This move was prompted by the elevated State Department advisory, following established University practices.

Any student wishing to pursue University-affiliated travel to China will need to submit a restricted travel petition to be reviewed for possible approval by the International Restricted Travel Committee and the provost. Students may contact the Global Safety Office for more information.

The list of countries restricted for student travel by the University is a dynamic list, updated monthly, and is based on a variety of sources, including U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories and risk ratings from the University’s international insurance provider, United Healthcare Global. The CDC has issued a Level 3 travel warning and recommends avoiding all nonessential travel to China. The State Department on Jan. 30 elevated its travel advisory for China to Level 4 "Do Not Travel."

Until the current outbreak is under control, the Global Safety Office recommends faculty and staff assess whether planned travel to China is necessary. The Penn State Global Safety Office remains available to assist in the event of an emergency, but travelers should be aware of local conditions beyond the Global Safety Office’s control, including transportation restrictions implemented by the Chinese government that could disrupt travel. Additionally, access to local medical care may be limited due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“The safety of our students and employees traveling overseas is our number one priority. We have a small number of faculty and staff travelers currently in China, but there are no records for upcoming faculty or staff travel to China through the end of May,” said Joe Thurston, global safety analyst with Penn State Global Programs. “Likewise, we have no student programming in China at this time and no upcoming student travel records to the country through the end of May.”

The Global Safety Office has been in contact with the few employee travelers currently in China to communicate the latest travel advice issued by the State Department, the CDC and other official sources, and to serve as a resource for questions or concerns. 

Dr. Robin Oliver-Veronesi, senior director of University Health Services, confirmed that there have been no cases of 2019-nCoV at Penn State and no reports of the virus in Pennsylvania.

“We are taking every precaution to prepare for an outbreak,” Oliver-Veronesi said. “Coronavirus symptoms can be very similar to those of the flu, which is very active right now. So, we urge anyone with flu-like symptoms to contact their health care provider for an evaluation.”  

Common signs of 2019-nCoV include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. The suspected incubation period of the virus is believed to be from two to 14 days.

University Park students experiencing these symptoms can begin the screening process for coronavirus over the phone by calling the UHS Advice Nurse at 814-863-4463. Penn State urges faculty and staff to contact their health care provider immediately if they have respiratory symptoms with a fever and have been in Wuhan or nearby areas in China within the last two weeks. Students at Penn State Commonwealth Campuses should contact their on-campus health services office.

As this is an evolving situation, the most up-to-date information can be found from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

More information on University travel and resources can be found online at https://news.psu.edu/story/605494/2020/01/30/campus-life/penn-state-officials-closely-monitoring-spread-coronavirus.

Last Updated February 10, 2020