Messiah College Response to Coronavirus

This information was sent campuswide on Feb. 28, 2020. New information will be posted on this blog as it is made available. 

Within the past week, there has been heightened public attention surrounding the increase in Coronavirus cases internationally, and the first case of unknown origin that has occurred in the U.S. (out of about 60 confirmed cases in this country as of Feb. 28). Throughout this situation, the College has been monitoring the international and domestic response to the Coronavirus, and has been taking proactive steps to ensure campus safety and guide decisions related to college-related travel.

What is Coronavirus?

It is a respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which has now been detected in 37 locations internationally, including cases in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).

In confirmed cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, depending on the age and health condition of the patient. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:
• Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)
• Via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
• It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Source: CDC website

What does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend at this time?

While the immediate risk of this new virus to the American public is believed to be low at this time, everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat:
• It’s currently flu and respiratory disease season and CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine, taking everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs, and taking flu antivirals if prescribed.
• Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at 60%–95% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty. It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
• Because older adults and those with chronic medical conditions may be at higher risk for severe disease, people in these groups should discuss travel with a healthcare provider and consider postponing nonessential travel.
• Avoid contact with sick people and stay home if you yourself are sick.
Source: CDC website

How is Messiah responding?

In response to this situation, Messiah College’s senior leadership and Crisis Management Team have:
• Dedicated personnel to monitor the virus both in the U.S. and abroad and to monitor and implement the CDC’s recommendations for our campus community;
• Enacted protocols and focused resources on preventative health measures in campus dining, facilities and cleaning operations, and at the Engle Health Center.
• Convened a team to assess potential risks on College-related international travel and
determine appropriate risk-management response.

Are Messiah College students and faculty currently traveling in areas where Coronavirus is most prevalent?

Messiah did have students scheduled to study this semester in countries that are under CDC travel warning, China and South Korea. However, our partner program in those countries made the decision to cancel those programs. Of the other countries that are currently on CDC’s travel health notice list (Iran, Italy and Japan), Messiah has four students studying in Italy. These students, however, are not traveling in the concentrated areas of impact in that region, and are taking the appropriate precautions as recommended by the CDC.

Messiah’s Intercultural Office, and our onsite educational partner organizations, have been in communication with all of our semester-long study abroad students, reiterating safety precautions. Messiah College is daily monitoring the CDC’s international travel advisories and our program partners there have comprehensive safety protocols and procedures in place should evacuation become necessary.

How/when will decisions be made about pending/future college-related domestic and international travel?

Messiah’s International Risk Management Team has met, and will continue to meet, to process decisions and provide direction for college-related travel scheduled for May Term and during the summer months. We anticipate receiving more detailed recommendations from the CDC in the near future specifically related to college campus safety and international travel. These resources will guide our decisions about future travel, and College officials will be in direct communication with students, their families, and employees whose travel plans may potentially be impacted by precautions taken as a result of the Coronavirus.

Messiah College will continue to monitor the progression of Coronavirus in compliance with CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, and make plans for spring and summer travel accordingly.

Messiah will continue to monitor, assess and communicate

We want to assure the campus community that the President’s Cabinet, Crisis Management Team and the International Risk Management Committee will continue to monitor this international health situation in a measured and proactive way, and will continue to communicate to campus as planning and decisions progress.

Questions related to college-related international travel may be directed to Katie Rousopoulos, director of off-campus programs. Other general questions related to Messiah’s proactive response to the Coronavirus may be directed to Kathie Shafer, vice president of operations, or Amanda Coffey, vice president of human resources and compliance, on behalf of the College’s Crisis Management Team.

For additional CDC resources and information on Coronavirus, visit
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.