Michigan Senate panel advances bill scraping third-grade reading law

UM, MSU discouraging overseas travel during coronavirus outbreak

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

As the coronavirus outbreak intensifies, Michigan universities are discouraging travel to China, South Korea and other affected areas during spring and summer breaks.

Michigan State University has suspended nonessential MSU-sponsored travel to China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea until July 31 because of heightened fears of the virus spreading. Programs in Europe have not been suspended but students studying in Italy have been advised by their host institutions to refrain from traveling to northern Italy.

There are 3,345 international students from China, from including Hong Kong and Taiwan, enrolled at MSU for the fall semester, said university spokesman Dan Olsen.

A committee is making plans to accommodate housing, education and other needs of international students at MSU who may not be able to travel home this summer, and students abroad who are expected to arrive on campus for the fall semester.

The university is closely monitoring the outbreak of the virus, though the risk to its East Lansing campus remains low, Olsen said. A task force has been assembled to ensure the safety and security of students and staff.

Students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

"The task force (is) comprised of the University Physician, the Office of International Health and Safety, and other campus leaders to monitor the spread of the new coronavirus and its impact to MSU," the university said in a statement.

"The task force is making recommendations to the university based on guidance from a number of organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization."

As of Wednesday, there have been 81,109 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide and nearly 2,800 deaths, according to the CDC. In the U.S., 60 cases have been reported, with no fatalities.

In Michigan, 346 people have been referred to the state health department for assessment and/or monitoring of possible coronavirus, according to the state's website.

The results of the five tested in Michigan came back negative. Three were from Washtenaw County, one from Macomb County and one from Oakland County.

MSU said it will continue to welcome and support international students, scholar faculty and visitor, and will not tolerate bullying or discrimination as a result of the virus.

"The campus community is reminded to engage in discussions of coronavirus with sensitivity and thoughtfulness, recognizing that many of our students, faculty, staff and visitors from affected regions are concerned about family and friends who might be at risk," MSU said.

► More: Michigan K-12 school officials prepare for coronavirus impact

Personal travel to China and South Korea also is discouraged by the University of Michigan, which has 2,964 international students from China in the winter semester.

"U-M travelers are encouraged to build in as much flexibility as possible into their plans, as travel disruptions are possible," U-M said in a letter to the campus on Thursday. "Please consider purchasing trip insurance in case last-minute changes or cancellations are needed."

Many Michigan universities, including UM and MSU, canceled study abroad programs after Jan. 30, when the U.S. State Department classified China as a level 4 travel advisory and recommended individuals avoiding all travel to the country.

"The impact of the coronavirus virus on future education abroad programs is still unknown, as the situation is rapidly evolving," UM officials said.

During remarks at the Feb. 20 UM Board of Regents meeting, President Mark Schlissel  spoke out in support of those affected by the virus and condemned prejudice surrounding the virus.

UM advised students who must travel to China or South Korea for personal reasons to register their travel, double-check that their destination isn’t under quarantine and review the Proclamation on Suspension of Entry to ensure they’re able to re-enter the U.S.

While it is a common practice in Asia to wear masks in public to avoid getting sick or to prevent others from being exposed, the CDC does not recommend the use of face masks for the general public to prevent the spread of coronavirus.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_