3.2.20: Lehigh University Study Abroad Update on COVID-19

The university senior leadership and medical professionals in the Health and Wellness Center continue to monitor the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak and to provide updates.

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Carina Sitkus

**Sent to students and families studying abroad**

Dear Students and Families,

As you are aware, the university is closely monitoring the global outbreak of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. On Sunday evening, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a statement that colleges and universities “should consider postponing or canceling upcoming student foreign exchange programs” and “should consider asking students participating in study abroad programs to return to the United States.”

Over the weekend, both the U.S. State Department and the CDC elevated Italy to Warning Level 3 (avoid nonessential travel). Lehigh has advised all students studying abroad in Italy to depart Italy and return to the United States. At this point, all other study abroad programs are continuing as planned.

The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff are Lehigh University’s top priorities. Lehigh’s International Travel Advisory Committee (ITAC) provides policy and guidance on international travel for faculty, staff and students and oversees issues related to safety and logistics of Lehigh-sponsored international travel involving students. ITAC coordinates with International SOS (ISOS), the university’s medical and security assistance provider, and leaders in international travel and education including the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Forum on Education Abroad, NAFSA – Association of International Educators, and the Overseas Security Advisory Council.

ITAC evaluates programs on several factors, including:

  • Travel advisories from the U.S. State Department and safety and security guidance from ISOS
  • Guidance from the CDC and similar international organizations
  • The availability and quality of healthcare in the program location
  • The accessibility of transportation to and from of the program location

The CDC issues three levels of Travel Health Notices to inform travelers and clinicians about current health issues that impact travelers’ health in specific international destinations.

ITAC closely reviews all programs in locations that are designated CDC Alert Level 2 (practice enhanced precautions for this destination). After reviewing expert guidance, ITAC may recommend altering or canceling a program in a Level 2 location. Students currently studying abroad in locations at Alert Level 2 have the option to voluntarily return home early. 

ITAC will cancel programs in locations that are designated CDC Warning Level 3 (avoid all non-essential travel to this destination), unless extraordinary circumstances justify continuation of the program. Currently, the only countries at Level 3 are China, South Korea and Italy. We are working with students studying abroad in Italy this semester to help them return to the United States. 

The staff in our Study Abroad Office work closely with faculty, staff and students planning international experiences, while they’re abroad, and after they return. Our staff are available 24/7 to respond to student needs, and ISOS provides 24-hour medical and security assistance for students participating in international experiences. In addition, each of our program partners has their own extensive health and safety protocol. If you have questions about your particular program, you can contact your local partner. 

We are continuing to monitor the outbreak of COVID-19, and we will update you as the situation develops. You can also check the Lehigh University COVID-19 Information page for the latest updates on the university’s response. If you have any questions, please contact Study Abroad at (610) 758-3351 or studyabroad@lehigh.edu. You can also consult ISOS at go.lehigh.edu/isos or by calling (215) 942-8478. Lehigh’s membership number is 11BYSG000004.

Regards,

Cheryl Matherly

Dr. Cheryl Matherly

Vice President/Vice Provost, International Affairs
Lehigh University
Coxe Hall, 3rd floor
32 Sayre Drive
Bethlehem, PA 18015
Tel: 1-610-758-2981

Story by

Carina Sitkus