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Rutgers cancels study abroad programs amid spread of novel coronavirus

There are currently 200 students involved in Rutgers-sponsored study abroad and international programs who are being affected by the new travel restrictions. – Photo by Pexels

University President Robert L. Barchi announced this week that all Rutgers-sponsored study abroad programs, international spring break programs and Rutgers faculty-sponsored study abroad programs for the Spring 2020 semester will be canceled, according to a University-wide email alert.

“We recommend to students in partner university or other third-party programs to consider ending participation in those programs and returning home as soon as practical,” Barchi said in the alert. “While we are making this strong recommendation, please know that the final decision on participation in these programs is up to the affected students and their families.”

Dory Devlin, a University spokesperson, said there are 200 students currently involved in these international study abroad programs.

“We are working to address any academic issues that arise for (these) students,” Devlin said.

In regard to study abroad programs planned for the summer and following semesters, Devlin said decisions on cancelations will be made within the upcoming weeks, prior to the April 1 deadline for enrollment in these programs.

These restrictions are not limited to study abroad programs and also include all travel for University business, such as for conferences, internships and research, according to another University-wide email alert.

“We want to assure everyone that Rutgers Global—Study Abroad and Rutgers Student Health offices have been in contact with students whose studies have been interrupted by the travel restrictions,” according to the alert.

Mary D'Ambrosio, assistant professor of Professional Practice in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies (JMS), said a course she teaches was affected by these restrictions.

She said her course, "Writing the Mediterranean," included a spring break reporting trip to three cities in Spain.

"But as soon as the EU president designated the whole EU area as at 'high risk' on Monday morning, we knew we'd likely need to shift gears," D'Ambrosio said. "JMS that day prepared an alternative destination (of Istanbul, Turkey, which has so far seen no coronavirus outbreak). The University's directive has unfortunately ruled out that option as well."

She also said despite this interruption in their plans, students in the course will instead begin covering the coronavirus.

"As I told my students, this mirrors events in newsrooms all over the world: Reporters are setting aside their other projects, in order to investigate and report on the effects of this dangerous and rapidly spreading virus," D'Ambrosio said. "So, not only will my students complete their class, but they'll also have an opportunity to work on one of the world's most important stories."

Barchi also said while there are currently no cases at Rutgers and in the state of New Jersey, they are still taking precautionary measures to prevent an outbreak on campus, according to the alert.

“We are closely monitoring the situation, are in regular contact with state and federal health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and have been sharing our experiences and learning from those of our peer institutions in the Big Ten, the Association of American Universities and similar organizations,” Barchi said, according to the alert.

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) and state officials have also been working to combat the spread of this virus, according to an article on NJ Advance Media.

Officials said another New Jersey resident tested negative for the novel coronavirus and expect more people to be tested in the upcoming weeks, according to the article. Based off of the current location of the virus, they project the outbreak to spread to New Jersey at some point.

“I would have to say given what we’re seeing in other states, I don’t think we’d be surprised if that happened,” said Judy Persichilli, commissioner of the NJDOH, according to the article.

Murphy said the overall risk to American residents is low, according to the alert. He said that the state is focusing on responding appropriately to the virus.

“We are not allowing ourselves to sit back. We are prepared and we are staying vigilant,” Murphy said, according to the article. “There’s no topic I think in government right now, within our teams, across our departments, that’s a higher priority or getting discussed more.”

A total of eight New Jersey residents have been tested for the virus but none have tested positive, according to the article. Murphy said anyone who is currently being hospitalized for pneumonia or other similar illnesses will be tested.

Murphy and state officials also participated in a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence and other federal officials, according to the article.

“We need all hands on deck to combat coronavirus — and that means working with our local, state and federal partners to address this threat,” Murphy said, according to a tweet.


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