Health officials distribute protective face masks for visitors at a luxury mall in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. Panic and pollution drive the market for protective face masks, so business is booming in Asia, where fear of the new coronavirus from China is straining supplies and helping make mask-wearing the new normal. (AP Photo / Gemunu Amarasinghe)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia universities halt travel to China because of coronavirus

The University System of Georgia and the state’s largest private university are stopping travel by students and faculty to China, following federal government guidelines as the death toll worldwide rises from the coronavirus.

The system, which oversees operations at Georgia’s largest public universities, sent a message Friday to its 26 schools saying the travel ban includes spring semester study abroad, conferences and research.

“Summer study abroad programs and travel should continue to be assessed with contingency plans in case the current levels remain in place,” Lance Wallace, a spokesman for the system, wrote in one message.

University System officials said Monday they are unaware of any students or academic programs in China. Some University System schools, like the University of Georgia, have annual travel programs to China taught by its faculty. The system has about 330,000 students.

Emory University, the state’s largest private university, is also temporarily suspending all official and previously authorized travel to China for students, faculty, and staff.

“This restriction includes travel for university-related activities such as teaching, study abroad, conferences, internships, research, recruiting, business meetings, and special events,” Emory wrote Friday on its website.

Travel requests to China must be approved through a university committee. Emory has about 3,100 international students. 

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The coronavirus outbreak has killed 362 people and infected more than 17,000 globally, according to CNN.

President Donald Trump recently signed an order to temporarily bar entry of foreign nationals who pose a risk of transmitting the disease. It will apply to foreign nationals who have traveled in China within the last 14 days, unless they are immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The U.S. State department adjusted its travel advisory Thursday for China from “Reconsider Travel to China” to “Do Not Travel.” Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines last week suspended flights to China.

The Savannah College of Art & Design, a private school with a campus in Hong Kong, said in a statement last week it is closely monitoring the situation.

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