Coronavirus impacts DSU international students

Tourists walk through a busy shopping street in the district of Myeongdong in central Seoul, a popular destination among Chinese visitors to the country. Photo courtesy of TNS.

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Though the 2019 strain of the new coronavirus hasn’t reached Utah, it’s still having an impact on Dixie State University.

A trip to DSU was canceled for 20 high school students and their parents from Dalian, China due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“None of the students have contracted the virus, but [their] coordinator thought it would be smart to postpone the trip,” said Amber Denning, international student life coordinator. “Currently, they are tentatively scheduling their visit for April, depending on if the virus is contained by then.”

Shadman Bashir, director of international student services, said he was informed of the cancellation due to travel restrictions from China on Jan. 27.

“This is the first time it’s happened with groups visiting DSU, but if there are any risks associated with scheduled trips, they will be canceled or postponed until the risk is eliminated,” Denning said. “This trip was planned before the outbreak of the virus and no one could have known that the trip would need to be postponed.”

Bashir said not only will the outbreak affect recruitment efforts, but it could also have an effect on DSU’s current international students.

“I am in contact with the Southwest Utah Public Health Department regarding the coronavirus,” Bashir said. “A couple of our students visited China, but there are no symptoms of any sickness. As far as we know, none of them were close to the Wuhan region [and] everything is normal.”

Jenny Callahan, study abroad program coordinator, said that while study abroad trips near China — such as the Nepal trip — are currently unaffected, the program will still be checking for updates to travel advisories for all the 2020 trips.

Del Beatty, assistant vice president of student engagement and dean of students, provided students with information on the virus through a Trailtracker email on Jan. 31.

“If you have traveled to China in the past two weeks, have been in close contact with someone who has been to China, or if you are symptomatic, you should go directly to the Dixie Regional Medical Center Emergency Room,” Beatty said. “Medical care in our area for those who are symptomatic with this particular virus is only available at DRMC’s emergency room. Prior to visiting the emergency room, call ahead at 435-251-1000 and inform them of your recent travels and describe your symptoms.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of the coronavirus can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Since there is no vaccine for the virus, the best method of prevention is avoiding infection and maintaining good hygiene.

The U.S. government ordered the departure of all U.S. personnel family members under the age of 21 in China, ordered a travel ban and is quarantining U.S. citizens who have recently been to the affected region for 14 days, according to a BBC article.

Hua Chunying, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, said this will “only create and spread fear” instead of helping. She said the U.S. was the first country to impose a travel ban and suggest a partial withdrawal of its embassy staff.

“It is precisely developed countries like the U.S. with strong epidemic prevention capabilities… that have taken the lead in imposing excessive restrictions contrary to [World Health Organization] recommendations,” Hua said.

WHO advised against travel bans because travelers entering the country unofficially will only accelerate the spread of the coronavirus.

“As a state university, we are bound by the rules, regulations and restrictions imposed by the U.S. State Department and other state and federal agencies,” Bashir said.

Beatty said if students have further questions, they can contact him directly at 435-652-7514 or contact the DSU Booth Wellness Center at 435-652-7756.