I am writing to update you on developments with the coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, and to further ask for your help in ensuring the health and safety of our campus community.
Since I have last written, the World Health Organization determined the rapidly spreading outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern because of the human-to-human spread in multiple countries. They declared this on January 30.
The coronavirus outbreak has become more widespread across the country of China. Chinese officials say 213 people have died in the outbreak so far, with almost 10,000 people infected (these numbers are expected to change rapidly). There are at least three countries other than China where person-to-person spread has been confirmed; Thailand has joined France and the U.S. as the third of these countries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel warning Level 3, which means the CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China. Further, the U.S. State Department has issued a Level 4 travel advisory, which means Do Not Travel to China due to the novel coronavirus.
The CDC has set up screening stations at multiple airports in the U.S., but this does not include every airport so they have asked all health officials to be vigilant.
Due to the above changes in the coronavirus situation, we have modified our protocols. Namely, we are now asking that all people arriving from any airport in China self-isolate for 14 days before they come to campus.
The rest of our protocols are the same as last week and are:
- 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 email.
- 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.
- 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 is strongly discouraged. Students who plan on traveling to China must inform the Rensselaer Health Center by calling (518) 276-6287. Faculty and staff who plan on traveling to China for personal reasons should notify the Provost, Prabhat Hajela, and/or the Vice President for Human Resources, Curtis N. Powell.
Proposed visits to Rensselaer, in Troy or Hartford, by anyone either from China, or who has traveled to or through China, should be postponed until after the outbreak has subsided. Faculty or staff planning a campus visit by a person from China must contact the Provost and/or the Vice President for Human Resources, as outlined above.
The CDC is now 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.
Student 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.