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Coronavirus affects summer study abroad programs

Coronavirus is sweeping the globe, leaving a wake of destruction that rivals the other major outbreaks of the past few decades. As of March 7, almost 100,000 cases have been confirmed, with over 3,400 deaths and 88 countries or territories reporting cases. In the U.S. alone, 28 states have confirmed cases, with deaths occurring in Washington, California and Florida. As a result of this spread, JBU’s international programs are becoming increasingly affected.

Billy Stevenson, director of International Programs, said JBU has been and will continue to monitor the Global Coronavirus threat. The JBU Crisis Response Team, chaired by Vice President of Student Development Steve Beers, with the cooperation and support of the International Programs Department have been studying this situation very closely. “Our goal is to stay ahead of this matter as best as we can,” Stevenson said.

One of the major programs affected is the two-week Italy art trip. Last week, the Italy trip was canceled, as the country has been heavily hit by the virus, and the trip currently under reevaluation to possibly include locations such as Amsterdam and London. Erin Shaw, one of the professors leading the trip, said, “I’m definitely impacted by the trip being cancelled, but most of this happened at a university administration level. So, I can only speak to my very limited interaction with the process.”

David Andrus, the other professor leading the Italy trip, responded similarly: “We have been allowed to look into alternative destinations and we are doing so. It is our hope that the European Art Tour can still happen this summer—just not to Italy.”

Another interesting factor to consider is that students currently abroad are also being affected to some extent. Karis Trippe, junior electrical engineering major, is currently studying in South Korea, which is of the countries that has been most affected by the Coronavirus. As of now, she has not been withdrawn, and the International Programs office is monitoring her situation closely.

Handong Global University, the Korean university hosting Trippe, released a statement saying, “Handong Global University plans to launch classes for all open subjects with an e-Learning System. Due to the contagiousness of COVID-19, the government has announced the stage of crisis on infectious diseases to its highest level, ‘serious.’ With this situation, we, as Handong Global University, decided in the 54th Academic Conference, held on Monday, Feb. 24th, to go beyond the two weeks of delaying the start of classes, as recommended by the Ministry of Education, replacing with four weeks of online classes.”

JBU has since created an interdepartmental task force designed to answer questions about the recent outbreak. In regard to international programs, they have stated, “Students traveling to a non-restricted area will not be allowed to travel into a country with travel restrictions while away. For example, students registered for the summer Ireland Studies program will not be permitted to travel into Italy unless restrictions change.”

The task force is limiting general travel based on a four-tiered system that operates as follows: 1. Exercise normal precautions 2. Exercise increased cautions 3. Reconsider travel 4. Do not travel. According to the task force’s web page, “JBU has limited travel in accordance with the U.S. State Department travel advisories. No university groups will travel to countries where a level four or level three advisory has been issued. This includes faculty and staff who travel with university resources.”

Due to the unpredictable nature of the virus, the situation is constantly in flux. “There are many factors in motion and so the decision to move ahead with a program today could be changed tomorrow if new information comes in that warrants a reversal in that decision,” Stevenson said.