BRUNSWICK — No students, staff or faculty at Bowdoin College have been diagnosed with the new Coronavirus yet, but school officials are preparing for the worst. 

“While we hope for the best, we are planning for the possibility that the COVID-19 virus becomes a reality at the college,” President Clayton Rose wrote in a letter to Bowdoin community members Wednesday.

Six Bowdoin College students studying in Italy, where there have been more than 3,000 confirmed cases of the virus, have returned home after increasing health risks, according to college officials. None of them will be returning to Bowdoin this semester. 

For now, the approximately 150 remaining study-abroad students will stay abroad, according to Scott Hood, senior vice president for communications and public affairs at the college, but students are being asked to keep updated on travel advisories. 

Bowdoin does not have any students studying in Iran, South Korea or China, the other three counties with Warning Level 3 designations from the Centers for Disease Control, meaning travelers should avoid all nonessential travel. Bowdoin College does not have any official study abroad programs, but partners with other schools and agencies.

The Coronavirus, a respiratory disease first detected in China, has now been detected in more than 70 locations countries, according to the CDC, infecting more than 93,000 people and killing 3,190. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “Coronavirus disease 2019,” abbreviated “COVID-19.”

Spring break for students kicks off Friday and ends March 23, and according to  Rose, staying safe and healthy “will be particularly important as we return to campus after the break.”

Bowdoin is asking that any students, faculty or staff who pass through a Warning Level 3 country notify the school immediately, and all Bowdoin-sponsored trips to those countries have been cancelled. International students who are not able to return home over the break will be allowed to stay on-campus. Bowdoin has 121 international students.

Sick students are being asked not to return to campus until they are recovered. Students who become ill after they return to school should not go to class, the dining hall, practices or meetings until cleared by the health center, Rose said, and may even be asked to move to another room. 

College employees are being told not to report to work if they have symptoms of an illness. Human Resources is developing a temporary framework to support those with minimal sick-accruals, he said.

Many groups at the school are preparing for the “distinct possibility that the COVID-19 virus arrives in our community,” Rose wrote. Efforts include working with the students studying abroad and working to ensure “the continuity of instruction at Bowdoin in the event that faculty and students cannot meet face to face.”

Thursday, the Campus Emergency Management Team will gather to review preparations and contingencies for dealing with an outbreak on campus. 

So far, at least 130 people in the United States have tested positive for Coronavirus, according to Business Insider, with two confirmed cases as close as New Hampshire. There have been nine identified Coronavirus deaths in the country, all in Washington state. 

“This is a challenging moment globally,” Rose said, and urged students and community members to pay close attention to personal health and to practices (including thorough hand washing) to protect the health and welfare of others.

With the school’s plans to deal with any potential Coronavirus exposure in place, Rose said they will be “positioned to come through it in the best possible way.” 

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