I am writing to update you on further developments with the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, and to ask for your help in continuing to ensure the health and safety of our campus community.
Since I have last written, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have changed their policies regarding people entering the U.S. from China. This is due to the fact that the outbreak keeps more than doubling each week and is close to being declared a worldwide pandemic. Chinese officials say there are now close to 500 people (including two outside of China) who have died in the outbreak so far, with almost 25,000 people infected. These numbers are expected to change rapidly.
The U.S. is now denying entry to all foreign nationals who have been to China in the past two weeks with exceptions being made for immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The U.S. government has also set up quarantine facilities on former military bases where anyone entering the U.S. from China will be quarantined for 14 days after arriving in the country.
In light of the changed guidance from the federal government, we have reviewed our guidance and updated our protocols. Rensselaer will not sanction any travel to or from China for any reason. Please note: If you had a trip planned to China in the near future, you should cancel it as you may not be able to re-enter the U.S. This includes any planned travel you may have for the upcoming Spring Break, March 9-13. Even if you were somehow able to re-enter the country, you would be required to be quarantined at one of the converted military bases.
Due to the modifications to U.S. policies and to our travel restrictions, please note the changes in our protocols:
- All students who have returned from China within the last 14 days must inform the Rensselaer Health Center by calling (518) 276-6287 or by email.
- All faculty and staff who have returned from China within the last 14 days must inform Human Resources by contacting Louis Padula, Director of Benefits, Retirement and HRIS, by telephone at (518) 276-6164 or by email.
- All faculty, staff, and students who have returned from China within the last 14 days and have the symptoms outlined below, or came into contact with someone displaying these symptoms, should immediately contact their primary care physician (faculty or staff), or call or make an appointment with Student Health Services (students).
- All students who are currently in China should immediately contact the Rensselaer Health Center by calling (518) 276-6287 or by emailing. We will contact your Class Dean so all of your professors and advisers will be informed that you will be unable to return until after the travel ban is lifted. We will arrange a schedule to help you make up missed work/research.
- All faculty and staff who are currently in China should immediately inform Human Resources by contacting Louis Padula, Director of Benefits, Retirement and HRIS, by telephone at (518) 276-6164 or by email. You should also contact the nearest American consulate as the U.S. is currently planning further evacuations of American citizens.
- There will be no university-sanctioned travel to China until further notice, including using airports in China as transit points. Since individuals on university business travel are required to use Concur, Rensselaer will flag all travel to or through China.
- Travel to China for personal reasons should be canceled for the reasons stated above.
- Proposed visits to Rensselaer, in Troy or Hartford, from China, or from those who have traveled to or through China, should be canceled until after the outbreak has subsided.
The CDC is still using the following criteria in order to know when to suspect a case of 2019-nCoV.
- Fever (100 degrees F [37.8 degrees C] or higher) or no fever AND symptoms of lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) — and in the last 14 days before symptom onset, history of travel from areas affected in China, or close contact with a person who is under investigation for 2019-nCoV while that person was ill.
- Fever or symptoms of lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) — and in the last 14 days before symptom onset, close contact with an ill, laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoV patient.
The Rensselaer community has been cooperative and no cases of the coronavirus have been identified on campus. Health Services is actively monitoring the information, protocols, and recommendations being communicated by the CDC and the New York State Department of Health. These guidelines may change, and we will review and implement recommendations as we receive them. Take all recommended precautionary measures, and use your best judgment, as the situation progresses. It is important that we act responsibly, individually and collectively, in order to protect the Rensselaer community.
Please refer to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak Communications website for more information.