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How Wisconsin Universities Are Dealing With Coronavirus Outbreak

Some UW-Madison Students Could Be Stuck Outside The Country, Thanks To Travel Ban

A microscope image of the coronavirus COVID-19
This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. NIAID-RML via AP Photo

Wisconsin universities and students are dealing with fears over the coronavirus outbreak, a respiratory illness that has killed hundreds of people in China.

In the United States, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed 11 cases of coronavirus in five states. None are in Wisconsin.

To prevent further spread of the disease, the federal government has banned foreigners who have traveled to China, where the outbreak started, from entering the U.S.

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Some University of Wisconsin-Madison students could be impacted, said Meredith McGlone, a university spokesperson.

“We don’t have any students currently studying abroad in China, so these would be students, non-U.S. citizens, who are currently abroad and who would not be able to be readmitted to the country,” she said.

McGlone couldn’t give an exact number of students in this situation, but she said it was “less than 50.”

For the international students on campus, UW-Madison is holding a coronavirus Q&A Tuesday night.

UW-Madison physics major Dian Jin is an international student from China. He said he’s not that concerned about the virus, since there have been no confirmed cases in Wisconsin.

“That might just make me pay less attention on that. But if there is one of us have the coronavirus, we might have different kind of thinkings,” he said.

Dian Jin, a young man from China wearing a blue winter coat, sits on a green couch. He has a long pink ponytail. Two students at another table chat behind him.
Dian Jin, an international student from China, sits in the Student Activities Center on UW-Madison’s campus. Miranda Suarez/WPR

Jin said he hasn’t experienced any discrimination due to the outbreak, although he has a guess as to what some people may believe.

“There must be some people thinking that, ‘You’re Chinese, you might take the virus,’” he said.

Jin is a member of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, and he said the group considered canceling its Lunar New Year event due to the outbreak, but decided not to after speaking with University Health Services (UHS).

UHS’s coronavirus information page states people who have been to China and have no symptoms don’t need to stay home from class or work.

The outbreak has also interrupted some Wisconsin students’ study abroad plans. UW-Madison canceled four spring semester study abroad programs, affecting seven students, McGlone said.

The Beijing Center, a study abroad program that partners with Marquette University, cancelled its spring program.

Marquette spokesperson Lynn Griffith wrote in an email that the one MU student studying abroad in China returned home Thursday.

“The student was only in Beijing and the Yunnan Province, both of which are very far from the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan,” Griffith wrote.

One student from UW-La Crosse, who was in Wuhan, returned home voluntarily, said Emelee Volden, the university’s director of international education and engagement.

“I think if she would have stayed, we would have told her she had to come home,” Volden said.

Six UW-Platteville students were being monitored for the virus after returning from China. The university announced Monday all known travelers to or from Wuhan had passed the 14-day incubation period and no longer needed to self-check for symptoms.