coronavirus

Coronavirus Affecting Local Study Abroad, International Student Programs

Study abroad recipients are having to change their course work plans as local universities cancel trips

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Health experts in China now confirm more than 2,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus, as a new report from a world-renowned expert shows more than half the world could be affected as the virus spreads.

China on Wednesday reported another drop in the number of new cases of a viral infection and 97 more deaths, pushing the total dead past 1,100 as postal services worldwide said delivery was being affected by the cancellation of many flights to China.

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Meanwhile, thousands of students across North Texas are being impacted by the outbreak. Study abroad recipients are having to change their coursework plans as local universities cancel trips.

But the coronavirus is also affecting countless Chinese students going to school here in North Texas.

As coronavirus continues to spread, lawmakers question why the Trump administration has not asked for emergency funds to fight the deadly disease, and instead proposed cuts to the Centers for Disease Control budget. NBC's Tracie Potts reports.

Dongxue Tan, from the Xi'an, a city in the province next to Wuhan, says she hasn't been home in two years while earning her masters in education at Dallas Baptist University. She had planned to fly back this spring break to see her family, but the outbreak forced her to cancel the trip.

Tan said she worries about her parents.

Health experts in China now confirm more than 2,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus, as a new report from a world-renowned expert shows more than half the world could be affected as the virus spreads.

"Just right now, seeing my parents still living there it can be very hard sometimes because they're running very low on facemasks and it’s impossible to buy facemasks right now. But my dad still has to go to work every day and it’s a very horrifying idea to think that he has to go outside and be around these people because I don’t want him to get infected," she said.

She said she's thankful that her family is doing well as they wait out the situation at home.

"The whole complex that they live in has been closed up so one person from one family can go out in two days, so they have a limitation for each family, how many people and how many times they can go out. So I guess that’s the only thing but so far everyone’s healthy and good," she said.

Newlyweds from North Texas are among the nearly 4,000 people stuck on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan, forced to quarantine after 135 onboard tested positive for the coronavirus.

Tan is just one of nearly 200 Chinese students at DBU.

The school has indefinitely suspended all university-related travel to China, including a master's program that was planned for spring break.

DBU officials said they have also been working hard to calm the fears and anxieties of international students through counseling and other services.

“I think as a university, you have to have emergency plans and be thinking ahead to these types of things," said Dr. Jay Harley, student affairs vice president for DBU. "We live in a very uncertain world. There’s all kinds of stuff happening here within our own country, city and state that could cause disruption to what takes place on the university campus.”

Regular surgical face masks are not effective in protecting against the coronavirus. A more specialized face mask known as N95 respirators are thicker than surgical masks and are fitted to a person’s face to keep out any viral particles.

He added that one of their biggest focuses has been providing for the mental health needs of students from China.

"We have some students from China that are concerned and nervous about what’s going on in China and want to talk to someone. So it’s making sure that we have the counseling center available for them to have somebody to talk to," said Harley. "We have a graduate student who is working on her license professional counseling internship, who is a native Chinese speaker. So that helps us within our mental health services.”

DBU is not alone.

Texas Christian University canceled all study abroad programs in China for students through August, at which point they will re-evaluate.

Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport has been selected as one of 11 airports in the United States to screen passengers who have traveled to China for coronavirus. Passengers who have are re-entering the U.S., and have traveled to China in the last 14 days will be screened.

Southern Methodist University said it is following CDC orders and is not authorizing travel to China for students, staff or faculty. Officials said they will re-assess later this spring. Any questions about this SMU travel advisory may be directed to riskmanagement@smu.edu.

UT Dallas announced on its website that it has also suspended all travel until further notice. According to the school's counseling services, it is also providing counseling for Chinese students after reports of mocking and stereotyping.

UT Arlington also announced online that it is also suspending all university-related travel to China.

No local schools have identified any students who had traveled to the heavily impacted Wuhan region recently.

TCU officials pointed out that the month of March is probably the biggest month of the year for recruitment and major college fairs in China and just about everything is canceled.

For now, local colleges and universities say they are reassuring Chinese students that they are still interested in their applications, as everyone waits for the outbreak to slow down.

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