Wayne State canceled study abroad programs for the rest of the semester on Feb. 28 amid concerns about the coronavirus outbreak and students said they’re upset.

Jonathan Martindale, a senior public health student was expecting to travel to Ecuador during spring break through WSU’s study abroad program.

“I felt really upset about our trip to Ecuador being canceled, and I know that the feeling is shared among everyone who was supposed to go. I was really looking forward to learning more about Ecuadorian health care and procedures first-hand,” Martindale said.

There are 164 confirmed cases in the U.S. of the coronavirus, reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of March 8, 11 people are dead.

Martindale said the university will be refunding all students who already paid for their trips. 

“They said that it will take time as there were many programs for spring break study abroad, but it will happen as fast as it can. We will be 100% reimbursed for everything that we have paid,” Martindale said.

With spring break starting March 9, WSU warns students about international or domestic trips.

WSU Finance and Business Operations issued a statement March 6 regarding travel during spring break. The university will not approve travel to any country with a Level 3 travel warning issued by the CDC. 

WSU also strongly discourages personal travel to Level 3 countries. According to the U.S. Department of State, Level 3 travel warnings advise citizens to reconsider travel due to safety and risk concerns.

“If you plan on domestic travel, please note that the known prevalence of COVID-19 infection in the United States is changing rapidly,” Finance and Business Operations said.

Level 3 countries include Iran, Italy, China and South Korea, according to the CDC.

Gale Thompson, a junior public relations student, is currently studying abroad in Spain through CIS Abroad.

“Although my program isn't a direct WSU program, my program did notify us that each of our schools have individual discretion to pull their students from the program,” she said.

Thompson said that her study group is no longer going to Italy and are spending the remainder of their program in Spain. 

“We were all told that until the CDC or State Department say that Spain isn’t safe to travel to, (then) we’re staying,” Thompson said.

The CDC published multiple reports of how to prevent sickness when traveling. Washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces are just some of the protocols they advise to people.

Lita Smith, interim chief nursing officer of the Campus Health Center, stresses the same advice the CDC has.

Smith said that students must practice good hygiene and follow the CDC’s advice in order to prevent unwanted sickness.

“I think the important thing is awareness. The CDC posts updates almost daily on the coronavirus. People need to be aware of those changes since currently there are no domestic travel restrictions but that may change. That’s why people have to stay vigilant in reading the updates by the CDC,” Smith said. 

Smith said that students who feel symptomatic following their spring break trips are highly encouraged to visit the Campus Health Center.

“We have a screening process already in place. Anyone who feels symptomatic will be screened and given a face mask and we will then test for not only coronavirus, but for influenza and other illnesses as well,” Smith said.

The CDC said face masks aren’t effective in preventing illnesses and should only be worn by people who show symptoms of COVID-19.

Smith said that the university formed a coronavirus committee, which is working with outside medical professionals to help prepare the university for possible cases on campus. 

For updates on the coronavirus on campus, visit https://wayne.edu/coronavirus.


Cover photo by Susana Hernandez