Valley colleges suspend China study-abroad programs amid coronavirus outbreak

  • A sales clerk at a pharmacy rings up a purchase of face masks as fears of the coronavirus continues, Friday, Jan 24, 2020 in Chicago. A Chicago woman has become the second U.S. patient diagnosed with the dangerous new virus from China, health officials announced Friday. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP) Antonio Perez

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst campus (AP Photo/David Bruneau). DAVID BRUNEAU

Staff Writer
Published: 1/28/2020 11:41:28 PM

AMHERST — No students from the five colleges will study abroad in China this spring semester as the coronavirus outbreak prompts program cancellations and advisories against traveling to the country.

Officials at the University of Massachusetts decided to cancel study abroad programs in China for the spring semester on Tuesday morning, affecting seven people, according to college spokeswoman Mary Dettloff, while all Mount Holyoke College students who had planned to participate in the school’s Shanghai program chose not to go.

Smith College and Amherst College do not offer study abroad programs in China, although in past semesters, some students have studied in China through other providers. But, “for the spring semester, many of these programs have been suspended; therefore, no Smith students who had planned to study in China will be studying there this year,” according to Smith College spokeswoman Stacey Schmeidel.

Amherst College students faced the same situation, said college spokeswoman Caroline Hanna.

The decisions to cancel programs this spring came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against all non-essential travel to China on Monday.

Hampshire College had previously suspended its study abroad program in China for reasons unrelated to the coronavirus, said college spokesman John Courtemanche.

The novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December and has since spread to 16 countries outside of China and Hong Kong. As of Tuesday evening, the CDC has recorded no confirmed coronavirus cases in Massachusetts, and elsewhere in the United States, only Illinois, California, Arizona and Washington have confirmed cases of the virus.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the CDC, and “have ranged from infected people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying.” China had reported 126 deaths as of Tuesday.

Although rumors have swirled about possible coronavirus cases involving UMass students returning from break, Dettloff said that these reports are untrue.

“We’re trying to not make people panic, because everything is OK so far,” she said.

“We shared information with the UMass community yesterday because we want people to be informed and vigilant, but to also know we are prepared should a case of coronavirus present on campus,” she added in a statement to the Gazette.

The seven UMass students who were slated to travel to China in February will have the option to participate in different study abroad programs or remain on the Amherst campus.

Two UMass graduate students and two faculty members are currently in China, Dettloff said. None have reported experiencing symptoms of the virus, and the university has been in touch with them to provide health precaution advice and other information about the virus.

All of the colleges have distributed information about the coronavirus to their communities via email, and some have also posted information on their websites. The schools are also advising health measures taken during regular flu season.

The CDC has posted prevention measures on its website.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at


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