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Centre taking ‘every precaution’ for students during coronavirus outbreak

Centre College is taking “every precaution” to keep students safe and healthy during the current coronavirus outbreak that’s struck in several countries.

The Novel 2019 Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, was originally detected in Wuhan City, China, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are no Centre College students currently studying in China this semester, said Centre’s Chief Communications Officer Michael Strysick.

“Our Centre-in-Shanghai program occurs in the fall,” Strysick said. “We did not have any CentreTerm programs there this January.”

“Some of our international students did return home for the break, but we are in close contact with each and every one of them,” Strysick added.

The college is keeping a watchful eye on other study abroad students as the situation develops.

“We have taken every precaution and remain in contact with the health department and CDC,” Strysick said. “Every effort is being made to assure the health and safety of everyone at Centre. We also know that significant screenings are taking place at airports to test for any symptoms.”

In a letter emailed to the campus community and shared on the Centre College Families Facebook page, President John Roush wrote, “Long before the coronavirus began to attract international attention, you can be assured that Centre College has been focused on how we might best respond, since the health, safety, and well-being of every member of the campus community is always our top priority.”

The letter states, “My particular thanks go out to Dean Randy Hays and our colleagues in Student Health and the Student Life Office. They have not only been in touch with local and state health departments but have also been closely monitoring guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) — and continue to do so on a frequent basis.

“Because travelers will have been screened at multiple airports as they return to Danville, the health department confirmed that there is no need to isolate healthy students who do not exhibit symptoms of the virus, though we will continue to work with and monitor students after their return to campus. Nonetheless, as a precautionary measure, we have reserved some currently empty campus housing in case we need to isolate anyone who later exhibits any symptoms.

“Please be assured as well that staff in the Center for Global Citizenship have been in close contact with our students who are from or have personal ties to east and southeast Asia. They are all valued members of the Centre family, and each and every one remains in my thoughts and prayers.

“Finally, our colleagues in Academic Affairs have discussed contingency plans if any of our students need to miss classes due to illness or travel delays, or if travel restrictions prevent their return to campus.”

Strysick said students often return home during winter break, and Centre is working to help some of them return to campus for the spring semester.

“Recent travel restrictions have made that challenging in some instances,” he said.

Boyle County Health Department Director Brent Blevins said he has had “basic conversations” with Centre officials about the coronavirus and what should be done if someone does return with suspicious  symptoms.

“I’m glad Centre does that,” Blevins said.

Due to previous outbreaks of ebola and the 2009 H1N1 virus, “we always have a plan in place,” he said.

Blevins isn’t concerned about coronavirus being introduced into Boyle County. However, because of the amount of international travel from the college, as well as by residents and people in the health-care field, basic precautions should always be followed, he said.

“Wash your hands and keep them off your face. If you’re sick, don’t go around other people. … Keep yourself under observation,” he said.

Right now, the flu is a bigger concern than the coronavirus in Boyle County, he said.