February 4, 2020: Coronavirus Update

Dear Members of the Wheaton Community,

Wheaton College continues to actively monitor the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and is working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to ensure that appropriate measures are being taken to keep our campus safe.

While there has been extensive news coverage of the coronavirus, it is important to emphasize there are no suspected or confirmed cases at Wheaton and there has been only one case of infection reported in Massachusetts. There is no immediate threat to the community, and people should not be excluded or separated from any activity based on their race, country of origin, or travel history if they do not have symptoms.

For our students and employees who have personal connections to mainland China, this is a particularly difficult situation. Currently, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance is to avoid all non-essential travel to China.

For anyone who recently returned from mainland China or who has been in close contact with a person with a confirmed diagnosis of 2019-nCoV:

If you feel well, please follow the routine advice listed below while you go about your daily activities.

If you develop respiratory symptoms (coughing, difficulty breathing) or fever within 14 days of travel to mainland China:
STUDENTS – call Norton Medical Center at 508-285-9500 for phone consultation.
STAFF – call your personal healthcare provider for phone consultation.

Recommendations for people with respiratory symptoms:

If you have symptoms of fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing and in the last 14 days you:

  • Visited mainland China, or
  • Had close contact with someone who had traveled to an affected region in China and had respiratory symptoms or who has been diagnosed with coronavirus

You should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office, urgent care or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • If you’re a student, call Norton Medical Center at 508-285-9500, day or night. During the day, please speak with the receptionist. For guidance after hours or on weekends, leave your name and number with the answering service and the physician–on-call will return your call.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Do not travel while sick. Please do not ride public transportation or simply arrive at Norton Medical Center or other medical facility. Call ahead instead.

While we are still learning more about the 2019-nCoV, we can share some information provided by the CDC:

  • The immediate risk to the U.S. public is currently considered low.
  • Person-to-person spread is occurring, although it’s unclear exactly how it is transmitted and how easily the virus spreads between people.
  • The disease is more severe if a person has an underlying health condition or is elderly.
  • The virus does not appear to last for more than a few hours on surfaces and standard cleaning and disinfectant products are effective.
  • Students or employees who have traveled to mainland China but do not have symptoms should closely monitor their health status daily but do not require isolation at this time.
  • Students or employees who have had contact with a person confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus but do not have symptoms themselves should closely monitor their health status daily but do not require isolation at this time.
  • Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for 2019-nCoV infection.

Simple, but highly effective, measures can help protect you from the cold, flu, and coronavirus:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water (20 seconds of scrubbing) or use alcohol-based hand cleaners (cover all surfaces and rub until dry).
  • Cover your sneeze, cough or sore throat with a mask—even if you do not have a fever. Wearing a mask is a personal choice and is not a CDC recommendation. If you would like a supply of masks, please let me know.
  • Cough/sneeze into a tissue. Dispose of used tissues immediately into a trash can. If you don’t have a tissue, cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, which accelerates the spread of infections.
  • Avoid close contact with others who are sick.
  • Get a flu shot.
  • If you are sick, avoid contact with others, including parties, meetings, and events.
  • Do not share glasses, eating utensils, water bottles, cigarettes/vapes/JUULs, lipstick/makeup, etc.
  • Stay home or in your room if you have a cough with fever (100.4 F or above), contact your healthcare provider, and remain isolated until you are without fever or the use of fever-reducing medicines for 24 hours.

Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns regarding coronavirus.
Visit the following sites for comprehensive information:

Kind Regards,
Cynthia Maricle