Coronavirus and Travel From China – New Guidelines

To: Members of the University Community
From: Ka Yee Lee, Provost, and Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD, Executive Vice President of the University for Biology and Medicine
Subject: Coronavirus and Travel From China – New Guidelines
Date: February 6, 2020

This week the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued new guidelines for precautions that universities should take to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV. The University of Chicago is implementing these steps in accordance with direction from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical specialists at the University of Chicago Medicine. A student-focused version of the CDPH guidance is available here.

As we act to promote the health and well-being of the University community, it is important to avoid uninformed assumptions, show care for our colleagues and students, and base precautionary steps on the best information available. The U.S. has relatively few 2019-nCoV infections, and no one in the University of Chicago community or at our medical center has tested positive for 2019-nCoV. While public health officials believe the immediate risk to the general public in the U.S. is low, we want to make sure the University community is informed and follows appropriate preventative measures, especially because 2019-nCoV is novel and thus people have no immunity to it.

New Guidance

Due to continued increases of 2019-nCoV cases in China, the University is following these new recommendations from CDPH:

  • Any students, academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, staff or visitors returning from mainland China on February 3 and onward are instructed not to attend school or work for 14 days after the return date. The University will excuse absences for this purpose. Anyone in this situation should immediately notify coronavirusinfo@uchicago.edu and your local department.
  • Those who returned from mainland China before February 3 and do not have respiratory symptoms can remain in school and work, according to CDPH. Individuals who returned between January 21 and February 2 and have developed respiratory symptoms including fever, cough, and difficulty breathing should stay home except to get medical care, and contact coronavirusinfo@uchicago.edu. University representatives will immediately notify CDPH and help provide individualized guidance.
  • In addition, the University asks that anyone who has returned from China since January 21 notify the University through the coronavirusinfo@uchicago.edu email so we can provide guidance.

These steps are in keeping with the updated guidance issued by the CDC on February 3. On January 31 the U.S. State Department raised its travel advisory for China to Level 4: Do Not Travel. In addition, most major U.S. airlines have indicated that they are temporarily suspending or significantly decreasing their service to and from China. The University has strongly discouraged any travel to China and Hong Kong, and has temporarily closed our Center in Beijing and Yuen Campus in Hong Kong. In light of the current situation, anyone planning to return from China in the coming weeks should self-identify so we can inform them of potential challenges to their return.

Everyday Precautions

The University of Chicago Medicine has posted this informative video on how to take appropriate steps to stay safe from 2019-nCov and common respiratory illnesses that currently pose a greater risk in the U.S., including influenza. These steps include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Further health information is available from CDPH and the CDC. Working with you to protect the health and safety of all members of our community is of paramount importance, and we will continue to keep you informed if the situation changes. Please contact cornoavirusinfo@uchicago.edu if you need guidance, resources, or assistance.

UChicagoSocial: SHCS