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Coronavirus outbreak impacting Tennessee colleges' study abroad programs

Posted at 2:57 PM, Jan 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-30 21:32:35-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The outbreak of Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China has caused numerous companies and governments to set up limitations when it comes to who should visit China, and whether or not people are even going to be allowed to travel to the country.

In Tennessee, one group of institutions looking closely at the outbreak is colleges, many of which have study abroad programs that travel to China.

At the University of Tennessee, all study abroad programs to China this semester are suspended due to the threat of Coronavirus. School officials said this decision was made as a precaution, not because anyone has been infected.

There were 21 UT students planning to study in China this semester, and one student was already in China. That student was not near Wuhan, where the outbreak originated, and they will return to the U.S.

All UT students are being worked with to make other arrangements to complete their academic work.

The travel suspension to China is only impacting this semester at this point, and the University plans to further review travel to China for their ‘mini-term’ in May and during the summer.

At Vanderbilt University, student travel requests to China will require additional review if the travel is intended as an official Vanderbilt-sponsored activity (including study abroad). University officials are also recommending that faculty and staff reconsider non-essential travel to China.

Beyond that, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, including the Student Health Center, will assess patients for potential infections. Those with cough and fever will be asked for a travel history to determine if they are at risk for Coronavirus. Patients who are at risk will be masked to protect other patients as the cause of their illness is being evaluated.

Vanderbilt has also created a special website for this outbreak where people can stay up-to-date on what's going on at the campus in regards to Coronavirus.

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) officials said they have been checking the well-being of their roughly 130 students at the University from China this semester, and the school has canceled two concerts featuring performers from China out of an abundance of caution.

Belmont University officials said the school does not have any students, faculty or staff currently in China. They do have one study abroad program slated for the summer, but it is being assessed and at this point appears unlikely to occur due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Lipscomb University has no study abroad programs in China this semester, but there are students abroad in other countries. Those students are being encouraged to practice good personal hygiene and the school is monitoring the specific areas where the students are to see if anything related to the Coronavirus impacts those areas.

It's unclear how long Coronavirus will impact the area for, but many universities said they are waiting to make a decision on future travel to China until more can be learned about the outbreak.