Update 12:19 p.m: Northeastern Illinois University announced the cancelation of all Alternative Spring Break plans in an effort to protect participants from exposure to coronavirus COVID-19.
After four additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus throughout Illinois, Gov J.B Pritzker declared a disaster proclamation. Illinois becomes the 14th state to declare a state of emergency or disaster proclamation.
The Office of the President released a targeted announcement titled “Coronavirus Preparedness,” warning students to remain cautious when considering coronavirus COVID-19. The email, sent Thursday morning, outlines health and safety tips aimed at preventing exposure to coronavirus COVID-19.
Referencing an email distributed by Director of Student Health Services Sharon Heimburgh, President Gloria Gibson asks students to follow standard health protocols.
– Handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
– Avoiding hand-to-face contact with unwashed hands.
– Avoiding close contact with those who are ill.
– Staying home when sick.
– Covering coughs with a tissue before discarding the tissue.
– Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects.
Should an outbreak occur, the Office of the President warns students that the university will consider a temporary closure. According to the announcement, NEIU is in the process of developing contingency plans and updating emergency operation protocols.
Should the university close, NEIU will explore e-learning opportunities “when they make sense” in an effort to blunt the impact of canceled classes.
The Office of the President also addressed study abroad opportunities, writing that planned trips to Belize and Ghana–two nations thus far unaffected by the coronavirus–will proceed as planned. However, NEIU postponed the faculty-led Black Paris Study Tour sponsored by the Inner City Studies department following French reports that over 100 confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been diagnosed in the Gallic nation.
The targeted announcement also states that, “[NEIU] will continue to perform routine environmental cleaning of all frequently touched surfaces at the University. No additional disinfecting beyond routine cleaning has been recommended by the Department at this time. We have distributed stand-up hand sanitizers throughout the University for people to use.”
The Office of the President also asks students to combat fear and stigma, stating “we must be supportive of people who have completed their quarantine or met the requirements to discontinue infection control measures.” The targeted announcement continued by informing students and faculty that no demographic is more susceptible to contraction than another.
As of Saturday morning, the death toll from the coronavirus in the United States reached 13 following the deaths of two patients in Florida, the first reported casualties outside of the West Coast.
Illinois state officials confirmed Thursday a fifth person tested positive in Illinois. Edward Campbell, a 21-year-old Cook County resident who returned from Italy earlier this month, is being treated and monitored in isolation at Rush University Health Center.
According to Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Campbell is the first person under the age of 60 to contract the coronavirus in Illinois.
A day later, a Portage Park CPS high school canceled classes after an employee was diagnosed with the virus. The woman, whose name has not been disclosed, was a passenger on the Grand Princess Cruise Ship that departed on Feb. 21. On March 4, the ship announced initial cases of the coronavirus originated on the cruise. Twenty cases have since been confirmed.
“We’re preparing for the virus to circulate in the community,” said Ezike. “This continues to be a rapidly evolving situation. Following our governor’s lead, we will continue to be transparent with information.”
“This scenario requires you to ask the tough questions and find the tough solutions,” added Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau. “Right now the CDC recommends that we avoid all nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy. Meanwhile, those with chronic healthcare conditions should consider postponing travel to Japan.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker states that the State of Illinois is taking precautions to ensure preparedness. However, Pritzker asks that sick employees stay home and for employers to accommodate requested days off.