Towson responds to Coronavirus outbreak

By: Bailey Hendricks, Editor-and-Chief and Sophia Bates, Assistant News Editor

In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, Towson has suspended all study abroad programs for spring break and summer and is preparing to help ill students and reduce the spread of disease.

The University held an on-campus forum March 4 in which Director of University Health Services Matt Goldstein provided updates on Coronavirus and answered questions.

With spring break coming up, Goldstein advised students to reassess travel plans.

“If you are traveling and have any health conditions, you should talk to your primary care before doing that,” Goldstein said.

According to Goldstein, the University is ready for pandemic situations, as there is a plan that is updated periodically. He also said the University has a “pandemic workgroup” meeting regularly. 

Goldstein added that the University is a POD (point of dispensing) site for mass vaccinations and could deliver thousands of vaccinations a day, if needed.

Towson community centers, residence halls and the Health Center would be used to help ill students and reduce the risk of spreading disease. 

“We are in the process of putting surgical masks in the community centers, at the residence hall, and they currently are in the Health Center,” Goldstein said.

There are also disposable thermometers located in community centers and residence halls. Goldstein added that there are precautions in place to seperate ill students from healthy ones in the residence halls. However, he indicated that sick students going home would be ideal.

Coronavirus started in Wuhan, China.The first confirmed death occurred in Wuhan on Jan. 30. On Jan. 30, TU suspended study abroad programming and university-sponsored and university-related travel to China for spring 2020. On Feb. 26, TU suspended all upcoming university-sponsored and university-related travel to Italy and Japan, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upgraded Italy to a Level 3 Warning and a Level 2 Warning for Japan. Towson recalled students, faculty and staff from Italy and they will self-quarantine rather than return to campus.

On March 3, TU suspended all study abroad programs for spring break 2020 and the summer 2020 term.On March 5, three cases of Coronavirus were confirmed in Maryland. Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in Maryland later the same day.

“I think it’s very smart for Towson to not have them come to campus,” senior Aaron Kaplan said. “I think it’s best for them to be here [United States] right now because of all the stuff we are hearing in the news about how fast the outbreak is spreading in Italy and how it’s better controlled, as of now, over here.”

Senior Noah Beall was in China from September until Jan. 25, right before Towson made the decision to cancel any future travel to the area. According to Beall, the concern wasn’t there until about two weeks until the end of his trip. 

“At the very beginning, nobody was worrying about it at all,” Beall said. “You heard some rumors from Hong Kong. My dad sent me a text like ‘Hey, there’ve been four people infected with a new disease in Hong Kong.’ I wasn’t very worried about it because nobody else was at the time. I think I wasn’t worried about it until about two and half weeks into my trip when the actual government was saying it was a problem.” 

Beall said he believes the United States did not prepare as seriously as they could have, as he recalls his return from China and mixing in with the public. 

“We did no preparation and I still think we are lacking preparation for people coming into the country,” Beall said. “When I came in, we fly into the Boston airport and literally everybody on the plane was wearing masks and we merged into the population for visas and such like that. It was concerning, because nobody there was wearing masks. If somebody on the plane was sick, it would’ve been very easy for somebody else to catch it.” 

Junior Annie Shipley was planning on attending a psychology two-week study abroad program in Rome and Venice. According to Shipley, she wasn’t informed of her program being cancelled until the campus-wide email was sent. 

“My program isn’t just suspended, it’s cancelled,” Shipley said. “I have been following the campus wide emails very thoroughly, and I actually saw that it was suspended through that. Then afterwards, afterwards being the key, I received an email from the office of study abroad saying it was cancelled.” 

As of March 8, Shipley hasn’t received much information about reimbursement. 

“I have no information about reimbursement besides being vaguely told that I would receive my money back, no other contact has been made about it,” Shipley said. 

Shipley disagrees that the University is taking the necessary approach. 

“I think Towson is being overly cautious and it’s affecting students who want to study abroad,” Shipley said. “I won’t be able to study abroad again because of the way my schedule works out. This was my last chance and I can’t believe I won’t be able to take it.”

Towson has not recalled travel from Japan at this time. However, in a Feb. 29 campus-wide email, TU said they will “provide assistance to facilitate the early return home for any TU student studying abroad anywhere during the spring 2020 term.”

Sophomore Kalifa Warren was glad TU hosted Wednesday’s forum and felt it provided good insight on COVID-19.

“I think it was really good to get students educated to keep the fear of the spread down,” Warren said. “I’m glad that I came because I got some information that is going to keep me less worried about the situation.”

– Marcus Whitman contributed to this article. 

– Graphics compiled by Bailey Hendricks, Graphics designed by Tori Nicholson

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