SUNY New Paltz recalls study-abroad students, discourages spring break travel

With numbers of patients affected by COVID-19, the currently rampant coronavirus, mounting daily around the globe, SUNY New Paltz has requested that students studying abroad return to the US. “Four students have chosen to remain in CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]-designated level 2 or 3 countries, including one student in South Korea and three students in Japan. All other students who were studying in CDC-designated level 2 or 3 countries have returned,” said the college’s director of communication, Melissa Kaczmarek.

On Wednesday, March 4, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the returning study-abroad students would disembark from a chartered jet at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, along with students from other SUNY schools instructed to return at the same time, and quarantined for 14 days in dormitory-like settings. By Friday, state officials had changed the arrival point to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens. Those students arrived on Saturday night and are being housed at undisclosed dormitories. Students were given the option of spending the CDC’s precautionary 14-day quarantine at home or in a SUNY dormitory.

SUNY New Paltz has also canceled all campus-sponsored and official campus international travel for faculty, staff and students to any country designated a Level 2 or Level 3 coronavirus risk by the CDC, which as of Sunday included Italy, South Korea, Iran, Japan and China. With spring break coming up March 14 to 21, the college advised members of the campus community to “reconsider very seriously plans to travel over spring break, either internationally or domestically, given the rapidly changing nature of this situation.”

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Kaczmarek also noted, “We won’t be running programs in China, Italy, Japan and South Korea this summer.” What will happen with international students coming to campus for the summer session remains to be determined. As of Monday, the college had not yet canceled summer and fall sessions at the college’s Center for International Programs, and applications were still being accepted.

The single case of COVID-19 infection reported in Ulster County as of Sunday had no connection with the campus, officials reported. But precautionary measures were underway on campus: “We have begun focused cleaning by custodial staff of high-contact areas, including doorknobs, handrails, tabletops and computer lab keyboards and mice,” the college’s website announced. In addition, the SUNY New Paltz-based Institute for Disaster Mental Health will be offering training to college faculty and staff in Psychological First Aid, a universal early intervention that can be learned and delivered by anyone (no mental health background required) and used to support anyone experiencing stress or anxiety. All New Paltz students traveling abroad or who have recently returned home have access to a 24/7 virtual mental health counseling service.

For the latest updates on how the coronavirus outbreak will impact operations at SUNY New Paltz, visit www.newpaltz.edu/coronavirus-info.

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