Four students were quarantined on Dickinson College campus as a precautionary measure due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, according to an email sent out to the college community on Feb. 6. The three students studying abroad in Beijing, China returned to Dickinson College “this week and next,” as of Jan. 31, according to Executive Director of the Center for Global Study and Engagement and Associate Provost, Samantha Brandauer, also due to the spread of the coronavirus.
In an email sent to the Dickinson College community on Feb. 6, it was explained that four students who have returned to campus from China have been quarantined, or isolated into single rooms “as a purely precautionary measure […] until they have been in the U.S. for 14 days.”
An update to the Feb. 6 email was sent to the Dickinson College Community on Feb. 10, alerting the community that the four students who were quarantined had “reached the 14-day mark and remain symptom free,” so they will be released from quarantine. The email reiterated that “no student on our campus has exhibited signs of coronavirus.”
Halima Ling ’21, is a Dickinson College student who was abroad in Beijing. She said “unlike the other students, I was in Beijing the longest, so I can’t go back to campus because of the quarantine issue, which has me looking for other options.” Ling was told she could study abroad elsewhere or take a leave of absence for the semester, “they expected me to get back on campus today [Feb. 6], when I only got to the US early this week […] Dickinson really did not know how to handle it,” she said.
Brandauer explained that Dickinson College has suspended the Dickinson in China program for the Spring 2020 semester following recommendations from the U.S. State Department, which has asked U.S. citizens not to travel to China. Brandauer explained that “to my knowledge, most U.S. institutions or study abroad providers are doing the same thing.”
Brandauer noted that it is rare to bring students back from abroad, but it has happened before. “We have had students return to campus most recently from Japan after the Tsunami in 2011 and from Egypt during the Arab Spring in 2011,” Brandauer said.
“I appreciate that our students and campus community have been flexible in this difficult situation. I can imagine this is a frustrating and disappointing outcome for our students who were hoping to spend another semester in China,” Brandauer said.
The coronavirus is a respiratory illness that was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. “Chinese health officials have reported thousands of infections with 2019-nCoV in China, with the virus reportedly spreading from person-to-person in many parts of that country.” The United States reported the first confirmed instance of person-to-person spread of the virus on Jan. 30. On Jan. 30, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern,” according to the Center for Disease Control website. While the vast majority of the cases are inside China, about 150 cases have been confirmed in at least 23 other countries. And, over 2,000 new cases were recorded in China on Feb. 1, raising the total to nearly 14,557, according to The New York Times.
Don Domenici, executive director of the wellness center explained that the community does not need to worry about coronavirus, as it likely will not affect the average person. “There have been at least 50 times as many deaths from influenza in the US alone than total deaths from 2019 novel coronavirus worldwide. That said, following good hygiene habits and taking general precautions will decrease your risk for all viral respiratory illnesses (including coronaviruses and seasonal influenza).” He continued, explaining that the best way to protect yourself and prevent the spread of influenza and other illnesses is to maintain good hygiene and self-care.