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In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Tulane University’s Office of Study Abroad has followed the Center for Disease Control guidelines and university recommendations to alter programs in countries that have been ranked as a Level 3 Travel Advisory by the CDC. As a result, some students are being evacuated from their study abroad programs.
Level 3 Travel Advisory countries currently include Italy, Iran, China and South Korea. All Tulane students studying in Italy and China have been evacuated and are finishing coursework online. This semester, Tulane does not have any Iran-approved programs, and the South Korea program was cancelled before its start since the outbreak escalated. Japan is on the Level 2 advisory watch and the program is being closely monitored.
“At this moment any student in a Level 3 that has been mandated by the CDC has been asked to move countries, whether that’s finishing their enrollment through a different program or doing online classes. It’s kind of case by case, but if they’re in a Level 3 country they have been asked to evacuate,” study abroad advisor Sienna Farrar said.
As the future course of the coronavirus remains uncertain, plans for fall programs — the most popular time for Tulane students to study abroad — are being closely monitored. For now, those who previously applied to programs in Level 3 designated countries are no longer allowed to continue their application and the OSA is working with those students to help them change their plans.
“It’s very volatile right now, day to day we don’t really know the outcome,” Director of Study Abroad Anne Gibson said. “Our offices are advising students that have applied and been approved to study abroad in Level 3 advisory countries that they should switch to a secondary location. It is early but the visa processing for academic study abroad is typically a six-month process, so students don’t have that much longer to decide what will happen in the fall.”
Tulane has canceled the Italy summer program, and OSA staff are keeping an eye on the situations in countries where other summer programs are supposed to be held.
“In the case that students are studying abroad and their program is canceled, Newcomb-Tulane College will do everything in their power to work with that student to remain on schedule for graduation and take the proper courses,” Gibson said.
In addition to changes in the study abroad policy, the university has been sending out frequent emails to the student body updating them on the situation. While there have been no reported cases of the coronavirus in the New Orleans area, the University is working to ensure that students are prepared if the outbreak does reach the area.
“The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 globally is high, so this risk assessment to our community may change. We will keep you informed should the current level of concern alter. Our COVID-19 Emergency Operations Team has developed FAQs and updates them as needed. Please use them as a resource,” Robin Forman, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and Provost, and Patrick Norton, senior vice president and chief operating officer, wrote in an email to the student body.
The email also touched on the alteration of future study abroad plans.
“At this point, although we do not know whether the State Department Level 4 Travel Advisories for China, and Lombardy and Veneto Italy, and Iran, or the CDC Level 3 Travel Advisories for China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran will remain in place over the summer; we strongly suggest that Tulane students, faculty, or staff planning to participate in or lead organized programs of study, work, or research in those countries this summer consider alternate plans,” the email read. “All planned activities should continue, with the knowledge that this is a rapidly changing situation; if planned travel is in an impacted area, you should consider your options should travel restrictions change.”
While the situation is continuously developing, the administration says it holds the health and well-being of the student body as a priority.
“As we continue to contend with the coronavirus, please know that we are thinking of you and your families, friends, and colleagues. We are committed to providing the support you need during this difficult time,” the email stated.
If you traveled somewhere and are concerned about exposure to the coronavirus and develop a fever, cough, or breathing issues, you should contact the Student Health Center Nurse Advice Line at +1-504-862-8121 or After Hours +1-855-487-0290.