CSU suspends some study-abroad programs amid coronavirus fears

Due to concerns over the coronavirus, the California State University system, which is headquartered in Long Beach, has suspended all study-abroad programs in Italy, China and South Korea, according to a memo sent today to the university’s Board of Trustees.

Steve Relyea, the CSU’s executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer, wrote in the memo that individual campuses are being asked to review their specific international programs and travel “by carefully studying the risks at each program location or travel destination, including the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) warning level for that country.”

At Cal State Long Beach specifically, campus officials have stopped authorizing any travel to China, Italy, or South Korea, according to the campus, and only essential travel will be allowed to Singapore, Taiwan or Japan.

“The university is in contact with those members of The Beach community who are currently abroad, including assisting students in Italy and South Korea in returning to the United States,” CSULB said in a statement.

CSULB said there’s no known or suspected cases of the new coronavirus disease, called COVID-19, affecting the campus.

Nevertheless, crews have placed hand sanitizer stations throughout university, and custodial workers are focusing on disinfecting surfaces that are frequently touched like tables, counters and door knobs.

Last week, the CSU system announced a suspension of international programs in Seoul, South Korea, but did not immediately halt programs in Italy, noting that the outbreak in that country was not as “dramatic” as in South Korea, and that the CSU’s Italy program is based in Florence, which is not considered a hotbed of coronavirus infections.

Relyea acknowledged in his Thursday memo that suspending programs abroad and asking students to return home “involves a number of important considerations.”

“Depending on the situation, requiring return may include taking other additional risks, including spending time on a long flight and in close proximity to others, as a consequence,” he wrote. “Further considerations include the impact on early departure may have on the students’ academic program and progress; the role of satisfactory academic progress in the awarding of financial aid; expenses related to early departure such as housing or lease termination; and/or increased airfare costs and/or airline change fees.”

Relyea noted there have been no cases of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, reported at any CSU locations, but campuses all have pandemic response plans in place, and those plans have been supplemented as the outbreak evolves.

“As this fluid situation evolves, our plans and activities will adapt accordingly, and we will continue to work with campuses to ensure the safety of their communities,” he wrote.

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