Spring Break Travel Safety and COVID-19 Update

February 18, 2020

Dear Members of the Yale Community,

With spring break approaching, we write to remind you of the resources available if you are traveling abroad or within the U.S. We write also to provide updates regarding COVID-19 (formerly 2019-nCoV or novel coronavirus), grateful that we have had no cases of the infection on campus to date and that there has been no community spread of the infection in the U.S.

You can find the following in this email:

  • Spring break travel safety
  • Infection prevention through voluntary self-isolation in the Yale community
  • New infection control mandate for people arriving from mainland China
  • University preparations for COVID-19
  • Information about COVID-19 infection and prevention

SPRING BREAK TRAVEL SAFETY
We want to emphasize resources that are available in light of concerns regarding COVID-19 and urge you to register your travel as provided below. For many students, faculty, and staff, international travel is important for their research, work, or studies and can continue as planned if travelers plan ahead and follow guidance from health officials and other government agencies.  

As of now, all travel to China should be cancelled or deferred to a later date. In addition, some countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, are imposing restrictions on entering, so you may wish to reconsider travel at this time to those countries. However, most travel worldwide is not affected. Please keep in mind the following points that will help ensure safe and smooth travels:
 
1. Stay alert to changes and developments that may affect your plans. Monitor travel advisories, including potential restrictions on border crossings.  

2. Register your travel with Yale. Whether you are traveling for research, conferences, internships, or other reasons, please register your travel, so that in the event of a major emergency, the university will be able to contact you.   
 
3. If you are an undergraduate traveler, review the Yale College travel policy.
 
4. Borrow a secure laptop from Yale ITS and consider using burner phones for high-risk destinations. Review these best practices for traveling overseas with electronic devices.
 
5. Understand what your health insurance will cover while you are away from home and consider purchasing supplemental travel health insurance.
 
6. International students and scholars should check their immigration documents before leaving the U.S. For more information about travel emergencies related to your immigration status or problems returning to the U.S., go to https://oiss.yale.edu/life-at-yale/safety-security/emergency-information.
 
7. U.S. Country Sanctions and Economic Embargoes:

  • Current U.S. sanctions and embargoes may require you to have U.S. government approval before you travel to an embargoed country and/or may restrict your activities in that country. If you violate these rules, you may be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties.
  • Those traveling to Iran, North Korea, Syria, or the Crimea region of Ukraine should contact Don Deyo, director of export control licensing, at (203) 785-3817 for assistance.
  • Those traveling to Cuba should email iocc@yale.edu for assistance. Restrictions on travel to Cuba remain in place: trips to Cuba that are primarily tourist-oriented, along with many other transactions relating to Cuba, continue to be prohibited.

Although this message is most relevant to spring break travel, we know that many community members already have questions about summer travel and programs abroad in light of the COVID-19 situation. We are monitoring and plan to be able to give specific information to the community with respect to summer travel by April 1.
 
INFECTION PREVENTION THROUGH VOLUNTARY SELF-ISOLATION IN THE YALE COMMUNITY
On February 3, 2020, Yale University responded to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by initiating voluntary self-isolation and self-monitoring for travelers arriving from mainland China. Yale Health registered 109 students, staff, faculty, family members, and visitors, many of whom have now completed the 14-day monitoring period. We are pleased to say that we have had no cases of infection to date, and we extend heartfelt thanks to all of the registrants for their cooperation.

NEW INFECTION CONTROL MANDATE FOR PEOPLE ARRIVING FROM MAINLAND CHINA
There has been no community spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. to date. The national public health strategy has prioritized prevention of infection through limitations on travel as well as quarantine or self-isolation of people arriving from China. Important new infection control mandates for arriving travelers include the following:

  • All travelers from mainland China must now arrive in the U.S. through 11 designated airports where they undergo screening for symptoms and/or risks of infection.
  • Arrivals with recent travel to Hubei Province will be quarantined for 14 days.
  • If they are asymptomatic, travelers from mainland China outside Hubei Province will receive a health information card and be required to undergo a 14-day period of self-isolation and monitoring with public health supervision at their travel destinations.
    • The State of Connecticut Department of Public Health will delegate to Yale Health the responsibility for monitoring members of the Yale community registered for this program. We will provide affected individuals with detailed health information and daily assistance.

You can read more about these infection control measures at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-china.html.

UNIVERSITY PREPARATIONS FOR COVID-19
Because of the magnitude of the epidemic in China and travel-related cases in other countries, the CDC and healthcare organizations across the country are making preparations in case we encounter community spread of COVID-19. In our own community, Yale Health, Yale Medicine, Yale School of Public Health, Yale Emergency Management, Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH), and public health authorities at the state and local level are collaborating closely.

  • We have created a 24-hour hotline (203-432-6604) for concerned members of the community.
  • We have developed and disseminated clinical protocols to facilitate consistent evaluation of patients with risk factors and/or symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
  • In collaboration with Yale Medicine and YNHH, we have implemented a mandatory data field in our electronic medical record system to ensure consistent screening for travel history and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 infection.
  • We have developed and disseminated protocols for limiting the spread of infection in the healthcare setting.
  • We have relaunched the influenza vaccination drive and reminded our community that it is not too late to get the vaccine. Members of the Yale community can obtain the influenza vaccine free of charge at the Yale Health Center at 55 Lock Street daily from Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

INFORMATION ABOUT COVID-19 INFECTION AND PREVENTION

Facts About COVID-19 Infection
The risk of COVID-19 infection is dependent on exposure, but details about the new virus are still emerging. The most important route of transmission is likely close contact (six feet or less) with sick patients who spread respiratory droplets when they cough or sneeze. The risk of spread from asymptomatic people and from touching surfaces and objects contaminated with virus is much lower than droplet spread from sick patients. The reported incubation period (time from exposure to the onset of symptoms) ranges from two to 14 days.

Severity of COVID-19 infection ranges from mild to severe, but the majority of cases in China have not required hospitalization. Critical illness has developed in 15 percent of Wuhan patients and up to 3 percent are dying of the disease. Fever of >100.4 F (>38 C), cough, and shortness of breath are the most frequently reported symptoms. COVID-19 symptoms overlap with those of influenza and other respiratory infections. Therefore, the CDC has published guidelines to identify patients at risk of COVID-19 and determine when testing is necessary  

Prevention of COVID-19 Infection
There is no vaccine for COVID-19 at present, so prevention is crucial. Here are some ways to avoid viral respiratory infections including COVID-19:

  • Avoid contact with people who are ill.
  • Refrain from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Facemasks are not recommended for healthy people to avoid respiratory viruses including COVID-19.

What to Do If You Become Ill
If you experience fever, cough, or difficulty breathing and you have had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient and/or traveled from mainland China within 14 days of the onset of illness, stay home and contact a healthcare provider for guidance—do not go to a healthcare facility prior to calling your doctor or a hospital emergency room for instructions.
o    If you are a Yale student or Yale Health member, you should contact Internal Medicine (203-432-0038), Student Health (203-432-0312), or Pediatrics (203-432-0206) from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For urgent attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, please call Yale Health Acute Care (203-432-0123).

  • If you are an Aetna member or have other healthcare coverage, please contact your physician.
  • Avoid contact with others to limit spread.
  • Cover your cough/sneeze with a tissue or sleeve, not your hands. Wash your hands with soap and water after coughing, sneezing, and blowing your nose. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable.
  • Facemasks are recommended for people with symptoms of respiratory infection to minimize the risk of spread of infection.

Information for Healthcare Workers
The CDC has issued detailed interim guidance for those who interact with potentially infected patients. Protect yourself and others by acquainting yourself with these recommendations.

Nondiscrimination
Yale University is committed to maintaining an environment of respect and freedom from discrimination and to supporting all members of our community affected by this global health threat. Bias, discrimination, and harassment are inimical to our values and violate Yale policies. For more information, please go to https://yalehealth.yale.edu/nondiscrimination-notice.

For Additional Information

Public Health Authorities

Yale Resources

Sincerely,

Dr. Paul Genecin
Director, Yale Health

Donald L. Filer
Associate Vice President for Global Strategy