CDC Asks Colleges to ‘Consider’ Canceling Exchange Programs Due to Coronavirus

A stewardess takes the temperature of passenger as a preventive measure for the coronavirus on an Air China flight from Melbourne to Beijing before it land at Beijing Capital International Airport in China, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. China said Tuesday the number of infections from a new virus surpassed 20,000 …
AP Photo/Andy Wong

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is asking colleges and universities to “consider” postponing or cancelling their upcoming foreign exchange or study abroad programs, as well as to consider asking students who are currently studying abroad to return home. The CDC’s suggestion is in response to the international coronavirus outbreak.

“Consider postponing or canceling student foreign exchange programs,” suggested the CDC on Sunday regarding its guidance for Institutes of Higher Education [IHE].

“The COVID-19 situation is dynamic,” warns the CDC. “Given the speed of spread and the number of countries experiencing human-to-human transmission, IHEs should evaluate the risks associated with choosing to maintain programs abroad and take the appropriate proactive measures.”

“Given the global outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) institutes of higher education (IHE) should consider postponing or canceling upcoming student foreign exchange programs,” advises the CDC. “IHE should consider asking current program participants to return to their home country.”

Colleges and universities have already taken steps to cancel programs overseas in countries that are heavily infected with the coronavirus, such as China and Italy. But the CDC’s newly released guidance did not name any particular counties and seemed to refer to any foreign travel.

The CDC goes on to warn those who oversee students for foreign exchange programs “should be aware that students may face unpredictable circumstances, travel restrictions, challenges in returning home or accessing health care while abroad,” adding that overseers should also consider asking students who are studying abroad to return to the United States.

“IHEs should consider asking students participating in study abroad programs to return to the United States,” states the CDC. “IHEs should work with state and local public health officials to determine the best approach for when and how (e.g., chartered transportation for countries or areas assessed as high-risk for exposure) their study abroad students might return.”

The CDC adds that in cancelling foreign exchange and study abroad programs, overseers should be mindful not to spread “stigma and discrimination.”

“All plans for returning study abroad students should be designed to protect participants from stigma and discrimination,” said the CDC.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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