Philly School Ends Chinese Exchange Program as U.S. Schools Confront Coronavirus

FILE - In this June 15, 2012, file photo, a group of tourists from China take in the sights of the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall National Memorial, in New York. With tens of millions of Chinese ordered to stay put and many others opting to avoid travel …
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

A sick Chinese student at the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia whom city health officials said may have the coronavirus has led to the school announcing it will end its student exchange program with China. The program brought 18 students and three adults from China to the campus last week.

Chinese officials said on Tuesday that 106 people have died from the virus that is believed to have originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. China’s National Health Commission said that the number of confirmed cases had risen to more than 4,500.

In the United States, five people have been diagnosed with the virus in four states — Arizona, California, Illinois, and Washington.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the high school:

The possible victim was among a group of 18 high school students and three adults from China who are visiting Penn Charter. They had a connecting flight in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York earlier this month, Sharon Sexton, a spokesperson for the school, said in a statement.

Sexton said:

Health officials have informed the school that the exposure time in Wuhan was limited, and it is important to know that many other common respiratory viruses are circulating in China and here in the United States at this time, so the student’s illness is more likely to be caused by one of those viruses.

The local ABC affiliate reported that the school sent a letter to parents telling them the exchange program was being terminated, according to the Inquirer.

“Although we have not been advised that it is necessary or advisable for us to cancel the exchange for medical or public health reasons, I make this decision because of the following factors,” Darryl J. Ford wrote in the letter:

Temple University emailed its students from China — even though not all returned home during the break — as well as any faculty and staff known to have traveled to China,” the Inquirer reported. “About 1,500 Temple students are from China, accounting for just over 40% of the university’s international student population, according to Temple’s 2017-18 fact book.

Inside Higher Ed reported that on Sunday “a member of the Arizona State community who does not live in university housing” had tested positive for the novel coronavirus after recently traveling to Wuhan, China.

The education news outlet also reported on Monday that Baylor University announced that it is testing a student who recently traveled to China.

Inside Higher Ed reported on two other schools dealing with the virus:

A student at Wesleyan University who developed a cough and fever after traveling through an airport where a patient identified to have coronavirus traveled is also being tested, the Hartford Courant reported.

A Tennessee Tech University student who was tested for the virus tested negative. A Texas A&M University student who was tested also tested negative.

And according to Inside Higher Ed, Chinese represent the largest foreign student population:

China is the biggest country of origin for international students in the U.S., and Wuhan is the 18th-largest city of origin, according to data from 2008-12 compiled by the Brookings Institution. At that point there were about 8,000 students from Wuhan in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the virus usually causes mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. Symptoms can include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat and fever.

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