Harvard added South Korea to its list of restricted travel locations as the University focuses on “contingency planning” for the possible spread of COVID-19 in the United States.
As national health authorities warn that a coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. is inevitable — and global stocks tumble — Harvard officials find themselves waiting for additional federal guidance while seeking to reassure students about their safety.
Harvard University Health Services Director Giang T. Nguyen and University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 wrote in a Thursday email — their fourth such communication since the outbreak began — that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has “urged communities” to prepare for the spread of the virus, officially named COVID-19.
“Contingency planning is already underway at Harvard,” they wrote.
Nguyen and Garber also warned that any travel could be disrupted in the coming months. Last week, the Beijing Academy summer program was cancelled due to the outbreak.
“Other countries may be added to the CDC’s Level 3 Travel Warning due to coronavirus and would face similar University restrictions,” they wrote.
As in previous emails, the administrators asked Harvard affiliates to register all international travel with a University registry.
As of Thursday evening, more than 82,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 2,809 deaths have been reported worldwide, including 60 cases in the U.S. One Boston resident has contracted the virus, and city officials are currently monitoring 33 additional individuals for symptoms.
Federal health officials on Tuesday cautioned that the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. was almost guaranteed, and recommended that hospitals, businesses, and schools begin to prepare.
On Thursday, Japan announced it would close all elementary, middle, and high schools for at least a month in an attempt to stem the virus’s spread, as Italy takes similar measures, albeit on a smaller scale.
The stock market experienced its worst daily drop in U.S. history on Thursday as panic about coronavirus caused global economic stress.
Thursday’s email also urged students who have returned from South Korea since Feb. 24 or mainland China since Feb. 3 to self-isolate for two weeks and submit a health form to HUHS.
Self-isolation entails remaining at home and not attending group gatherings, including social events, meetings, rehearsals, or team practices, according to HUHS’s website.