UC Berkeley updates on general guidance for COVID-19, travel

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03/06/2020: This article has been updated with information from another campuswide email from the Division of Equity and Inclusion.

A campuswide email sent Friday morning by Vice Chancellor of Administration Marc Fisher detailed the latest updates, policies and general guidance regarding COVID-19, more colloquially known as coronavirus, and travel.

The campus is asking the community to follow the principles of community and to learn more about stigma, along with correcting stigma with the information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to other resources, the email outlined travel policies and guidelines, invited students to fill out a spring break travel survey and provided updates on study abroad and housing options for international students.

“Please keep in mind that as we take steps to help ensure the health and safety of our community we also want to be respectful of everyone,” the email reads.

The UC Office of the President, or UCOP, systemwide policy limits faculty, staff and student work-related travel to countries impacted by COVID-19 if the work is considered nonessential, according to the email. Initially, this policy was for countries with a CDC risk level of three — however, UCOP announced March 5 that the policy is expanding to level two countries.

The campus is encouraging the community to view continually updated information on travel on the Global Engagement Office website, to review CDC and UCOP guidance and to follow the CDC and U.S. Department of State recommendations for travel.

If an individual had business travel canceled as a result of COVID-19 and was not able to obtain a full refund, the email states that there are options for reimbursement. The campus is also asking for individuals to “register immediately” for travel insurance for future business travel plans, as the university is providing a travel insurance program that will cover trip cancellation or interruption up to $2,000 and medical expenses up to $500,000 when traveling outside of the United States.

The CDC currently advises against nonessential travel to China, Iran, Italy or South Korea, according to the email. National transportation bans and infrastructure disruption are also significant, and the email adds that it is possible that U.S. borders could close to re-entry from some areas, causing challenges in returning from travel.

The campus is inviting students to fill out a future spring break travel survey from the Division of Student Affairs, which will help the campus understand students’ travel plans during spring break. Cal Dining will be providing service over spring break for students who remain on campus.

For study abroad through the Berkeley Study Abroad office, there are no campus-based study abroad programs operating this spring semester, according to the email. The systemwide UC Education Abroad Program, or UCEAP, has canceled its spring and summer programs in China, as well as its spring programs in South Korea and Italy.

UCEAP is currently working with its staff and partners in Italy and South Korea, UCOP and the nine UC campuses to assist students currently in these two countries. The email added that students and their parents received instructions for early departure and that the UCEAP is coordinating additional financial assistance for travel home and academic support as needed.

UCEAP and the Berkeley Study Abroad office will make decisions about programs in other countries based on updates from the CDC and the U.S. Department of State.

Another campuswide email from the Division of Equity and Inclusion — signed by Oscar Dubón, vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, and Eugene Whitlock, assistant vice chancellor for people and culture — addressed increased incidents of xenophobia and anti-Asian racism, harassment and bullying on campus.

“These behaviors have no place at UC Berkeley,” the email reads. “While we should exercise caution against infection from coronavirus, we also should stand firm in rejecting all forms of anti-Asian sentiment and other xenophobia in the guise of fear of COVID-19.”

In reflection of the campus’s principles of community, the email asks all members of the campus community to remain vigilant and ensure that all community members, regardless of race or country of origin, feel welcome, safe and respected.

Individuals who experience physical assaults, hate crimes or threats of violence have the right to report them to UCPD and the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, and concerns may be reported to the campus’s systemwide portal.

For confidential support, care and other services, Counseling and Psychological Services offers drop-in services for students at the Tang Center, its satellite offices and through Be Well at Work.

“When each day of late seems to bring a new challenge, let’s be intentional with our time and care to check on and support each other in respectful and meaningful ways,” the email added.

Campus is also assisting international students who may not have summer housing in place and are choosing not to return to their home this upcoming summer. Cal Housing is encouraging students to register for housing for the 12-week summer session, and academic options from Berkeley Summer Sessions are available.

The email from Fisher also encourages contact with the Berkeley International Office for questions about nonimmigrant status.

In accordance with California Department of Public Health guidance, students, faculty, staff, visiting scholars, student researchers and postdoctoral students traveling to campus from mainland China after Feb. 2 will be screened and quarantined for 14 days after their return with close monitoring by their local public health department.

A 14-day isolation and practicing of social distancing is also recommended by the CDC for individuals with a recent travel history from any countries or areas with an ongoing spread of COVID-19.

All UC Berkeley faculty, staff, students, postdoctoral students and other UC affiliates including visiting scholars are asked to call the University Health Services COVID-19 Travel Line at 510-642-6622 and the Berkeley International Office upon arrival in the Bay Area, according to the email from Fisher. This is to ensure that the arrival reporting requirements for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s student and exchange visitor information system are met.

CDC guidance instructs individuals traveling from the impacted areas to practice a 14-day isolation and not to take public transportation, taxis or ride-shares during this time of social distancing. It also directs these individuals to avoid crowded places, limit public activities, monitor body temperature and watch for cough or breathing trouble, among other instructions to identify possible illness.

The campus also provided tips on proper hygiene, mental health resources and an advice line from University Health Services.

“These are trying times, so we encourage everyone to take care of themselves and be sensitive to the needs of those around you,” the email from Fisher reads. “The situation regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) is dynamic and consequently guidance from public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changes frequently.”

Thao Nguyen is a deputy news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tnguyen_dc.