The university has cancelled an A Cappella Chorus tour trip to Seattle, Washington, due to an increase in risk for contraction of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Dr. Phil Schubert, president of the university, sent out a campus-wide email on Wednesday around 1 p.m. explaining the university’s continual monitoring of the virus and advising against personal travel to countries with a Level 3 travel advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ACU has made the decision to restrict university-sponsored travel to locations that reach Level 3 status, such as China, South Korea, Iran and Italy.
ACU leadership is monitoring information from the CDC, the U.S. State Department, the World Health Organization (WHO) and local health departments. Linda Bonnin, executive vice president for marketing and strategic communications, said they are relying on those agencies to let them know where it’s unsafe to travel.
“The wellbeing of our students, our faculty and our staff are our primary concern and our highest priority and so, that’s why we’ve taken these steps and that’s why we’re continuing to closely monitor the situation,” Bonnin said.
Kevin Campbell, senior vice president for operations, said they decided to postpone the A Cappella Chorus trip to Seattle, based on the impact the coronavirus is having in the local area.
“We’re in touch with different communities where we may be traveling,” Campbell said. “The Seattle area has declared two levels of emergency now. Many employers of Seattle have asked their employees to stay home, school districts have closed and now we’ve even seen NCAA basketball games be cancelled in Seattle. So, we made the decision that it would not be in the best interest of our students and our community to proactively send students and faculty and staff into that environment at this point in time.”
There are no known cases of the coronavirus in Abilene. Study Abroad programs in Oxford, United Kingdom, Leipzig, Germany, and Montevideo, Uruguay, are still in progress and being monitored. Study Abroad students were notified and restricted of travel to Italy and the city of Madrid, Spain.
“It’s important to remember that this is a fluid situation, so it’s rapidly changing,” Bonnin said. “I’m getting alerts on my phone all during the day about other people who’ve contracted it and other deaths and we’re trying to follow it as closely as we can.”
Campbell said with a situation like this they want to make sure they are proactively sharing information to the ACU community to keep everyone informed.
“When we live in a community like we do where we are in class together, we share residence halls together, we eat in the dining halls together, there’s a public [health] concern of what we do,” Campbell said. “We have to really consider heavily and we need to be appropriately cautious when it comes to things that could enter into our community that would then affect the public health of thousands of people. Between faculty, staff and students here on the Abilene campus, we have nearly 5,000 people here that come onto our campus on a daily basis. So, we need to be very cognizant of the implications of what transpires on our campus and how that can so quickly affect thousands of people, not just individuals.”