Explainer: How Northwestern’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak has evolved over time

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John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are unavailable to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Isabelle Sarraf, Assistant Campus Editor


COVID-19 News


In the past few weeks, increasing concerns of pandemic following the international COVID-19 outbreak, also known as the novel coronavirus, have led Northwestern and other schools to impose restrictions and cancellations to the community.

How Northwestern is addressing the COVID-19 outbreak

On Jan. 27, the University announced that due to the coronavirus outbreak that it prohibits undergraduate travel to China, followed by travel restrictions to South Korea, Italy and Iran to the list of prohibited countries.

Additionally, administrative officials issued another statement that they “prefer” NU employees avoid any nonessential travel abroad. Any faculty or staff planning to leave the country must first seek approval from their vice president, dean or immediate supervisor, according to the release.

NU restricts sponsored undergraduate travel to countries deemed high risk by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which have issued Level Three travel advisories to those four countries, warning against all nonessential travel. The U.S. Department of State has also issued travel advisory warnings to those four countries.

Feinberg Prof. Karla Satchell, who teaches microbiology and immunology, told The Daily in February that people in the Chicago area should not be afraid of catching the COVID-19. Since then, however, five people in Cook County are confirmed to have contracted the virus, two of which have recovered.

Last weekend, Weinberg sophomore Sydney Matrisciano, who was studying abroad this quarter in Florence, Italy, was evacuated back to the U.S. and put in quarantine following a COVID-19 epidemic in the country. Though Winter Quarter is not the most popular time of year for NU students to study abroad, the University’s decision to cancel international spring break travel will affect 43 trips, according to spokesman Jon Yates.

On Wednesday morning, the University announced NU-sponsored undergraduate and graduate international spring break trips were canceled. That afternoon, University President Morton Schapiro announced in an email the cancellation of Northwestern’s Dance Marathon philanthropy event, which was set to occur this Friday to Sunday, amid coronavirus concerns.

How other universities are responding to the outbreak

Columbia University suspended sponsored student travel abroad, including spring break trips, in response to the spreading coronavirus, according to a statement Tuesday. The Provost also stated that University employees and affiliates are urged to avoid non-essential international travel.

The State University of New York system is also repatriating students from countries where the outbreak has been most severe, in an effort to prevent the outbreak from spreading within the population-heavy state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday. The State of New York State has 22 total coronavirus cases as of Thursday night, with 2,733 people under quarantine in Manhattan alone.

“There’s a practical reason why you might want students to come home before travel from that country is stopped,” Cuomo said.

Duke University is requiring any student, faculty or staff who travels to CDC-designated Level Three risk countries to be subject to a “mandatory 14-day self-quarantine” before they return to campus, according to a Thursday afternoon email. Though the University is not restricting domestic travel, it advised against attending large conferences or events.

Stanford University suspended all international spring quarter programs in response to the outbreak, which will affect 234 undergraduates planning to study abroad, according to a Wednesday release. They cited students facing “unpredictable circumstances overseas” such as accessing healthcare, navigating local disruptions and the possibility for travel restrictions as reasons why they made the decision to cancel programs.

A Stanford Against Coronavirus student group is petitioning the University asking to coordinate a strategy that protects all Stanford affiliates. The group’s contingency plan suggests the University address the outbreak by suspending large campus gatherings, preparing student dorms with disinfectants and providing dining staff with medical masks.

“If Stanford University hesitates to take immediate and appropriate actions to protect its 16,520 students and 14,060 faculty and staff members, COVID-19 will have a great potential to spread throughout the campus, jeopardizing the lives of us all,” the petition reads.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @isabellesarraf

Related Stories:
Northwestern student studying abroad sent home, spring break programs canceled due to COVID-19 outbreak
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University prohibits sponsored undergraduate travel to China due to Coronavirus outbreak

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