February 27, 2020: Coronavirus Information and Spring Break

Dear Wheaton College Community,

Cynthia Maricle and I are writing today to call your attention to the widening COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak and its growing potential to disrupt international travel during Wheaton’s spring break, March 7-15. The situation is rapidly evolving, with information and recommendations changing daily, and Wheaton College continues to closely monitor the developments related to the outbreak.

A core group of staff from across campus have been meeting weekly to prepare, with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for the potential impact of the virus and to ensure the safety of Wheaton’s students, faculty, and staff.

In recent weeks, the U.S. Department of State and the CDC have raised travel advisory levels and issued various alerts for several countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, Italy, and Iran. If you are considering international travel this spring, we strongly encourage you to weigh the necessity of any travel against the potential hazards and to monitor travel advisories due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Depending on your destination, you may have to reach difficult decisions to change or even cancel plans to ensure your own well-being and ability to return to the U.S.

Any international travel carries a risk that you could be quarantined or prevented from returning to the U.S. In many countries there may be new and unexpected entry and exit control measures, and even quarantines implemented with very little notice during the coming weeks. The safest option is to postpone your trip until the outbreak subsides as these actions could severely impact your plans and/or delay your return home.

Because this situation is likely to continue to rapidly change, we encourage you to frequently check both U.S. Department of State and CDC websites to find updated guidance for your destination as well as for those additional countries you may plan to visit.

Please note that non-U.S. citizens who may be able to travel to China over spring break are not guaranteed return to the U.S., given the current travel restrictions. Chinese citizens whose passports have been issued by the provinces that have been especially impacted may not be allowed to leave China.

Wheaton’s Center for Global Education has been in contact with our students who are currently studying abroad and those planning to depart for programs in the next couple of months. Additionally, students studying abroad should follow guidance and instructions from host institutions and programs. A few of our students have been impacted by travel and isolation guidance in other countries. We will continue to monitor these destinations and communicate with students, as appropriate. In the future, the college may cancel or shorten such trips if it becomes necessary for safety reasons.

There are no college-sponsored international trips planned for the upcoming spring break. At this time, the college is not limiting domestic travel as the risk assessment for the United States remains low. However, should students who are planning to participate in college-sponsored domestic travel wish to withdraw due to concerns about the virus, the college will work with each participant to avoid academic and financial penalties.

The college also offers all students the option of staying on campus over spring break without charge. Please complete this form by March 7th. Please note: you must be signed into your Wheaton College Gmail account in order to access the form.

Finally, similar to preventing the flu virus, the practices recommended by the CDC to prevent the COVID-19 include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe

What are the symptoms?

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Symptoms may appear between 2-14 days after exposure

How is the virus spread?

  • Person to person via saliva or droplets in the air when someone coughs or sneezes

How is the virus treated?

  • Treatment includes rest and plenty of fluids for mild cases; hospitalization for severe infections

What should I do if I think I have contracted the virus?

  • If you are worried that you are at risk, please call Norton Medical Center at 508-285-9500, or contact your primary healthcare provider, or call Student Health Services at 508-286-8210 for assistance. Round-the-clock assistance is available by contacting Public Safety at 508-286-3333.

The College will continue to monitor new developments as they relate to COVID-19 and will update the community accordingly. Should you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact Student Health Services at 508-286-8210 or the Dean of Students Office at 508-286-8218.

Thank you all for partnering to keep our campus safe.

Dean Zack
Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Cynthia Maricle
Associate Director, Student Health Services