AMHERST, NY (WIVB) The University at Buffalo hosts 1,500 International students from China. About half of them are believed to have spent some of the past month in China, before returning to classes Monday. But so far, there are no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus on campus or anywhere in New York State.
“As you might expect, there has been some concern on campus, but we believe our efforts have had a positive calming effect overall,” said John DellaContrada, vice president for communications at the University at Buffalo.
Over the past ten days, UB has had 300-thousand hits to its special web page with updated information about coronavirus. They’ve also been directly emailing the fifteen hundred international students from China, some of whom just returned for classes Monday after the winter break.
“It was ‘Please monitor your health. Be taking your temperature. Listen to your body if you’re not feeling well. We’re looking for fever, we’re evaluating for cough and shortness of breath,” said Susan Snyder, director of student health services at University at Buffalo.
U.B. is only asking students to contact them if they have returned from China in the past 14 days AND show symptoms, according to Jay Roorbach, Emergency Planning coordinator at University at Buffalo. “It’s been interesting because we have not switched to emergency mode so far. It’s been a really well run exercise in consistent communication.”
“No distinct group of people should be stigmatized or marginalized,” said DellaContrada. “All should be welcome. Our campus community is well aware that students, especially our Chinese students may have family directly impacted by the virus and we should take care to offer them our support and understanding.”
And although a small percentage of students can be seen on campus wearing surgical masks, UB officials say that’s a common sight especially during flu season, according to Snyder. “Culturally, other countries wear masks for a variety of reasons, whether it’s for inhalation of pollutants, the feeling that it just gives them a little bit of peace of mind that they’re not sharing their germs and they’re not getting other people’s germs . So for some people, it really is just a little comfort measure.”
If a student is found to be exhibiting symptoms and had returned from China within the past 14 days, it would be up to the New York State health Department and the Erie County Health Department to determine whether or not that student is tested for coronavirus.