Students and staff in China, Italy, Japan, Iran and South Korea — countries hard hit by the coronavirus — on study abroad programs through the State University of New York and City University of New York are being contacted and quarantined.
"Out of an abundance of caution, SUNY and CUNY study abroad programs in the highest impacted countries will be suspended effective immediately, and all students and staff will return to New York and begin a 14-day quarantine," said Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York.
Cuomo said in a press conference Wednesday that the approximately 300 recalled students and staff will be flown back on a chartered plane, met at New York Stewart International Airport 70 miles north of New York City, and quarantined for 14 days in "dormitory settings."
'We'll stay in touch'
"We'll stay in touch with them after the 14 days to do followup work," he said.
Many colleges and universities have closed their study-abroad programs in COVID-19-hit countries, and asked students returning from their overseas programs to self-quarantine. Other schools have reintroduced them to the campus population.
NBC Washington reported that students from American University returning from Italy were not being screened when they left Italy or when they disembarked at JFK International Airport in New York.
Many parents and students seem vexed, confused and annoyed that students are returning from countries where the coronavirus is circulating, and mingling with the general population. Other parents are concerned about the stress students are feeling about contracting or spreading the virus, and having their programs closed with details like program reimbursement undecided.
Aid will be available for students
SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson said the university system "will provide students with financial and academic resources and work to minimize any disruption today's action may cause, while we work aggressively with all our partners at the local, state and federal level to protect our entire campus communities."
"We have an epidemic caused by coronavirus, but we have a pandemic that is caused by fear," Cuomo said. "People get afraid when they think they don't have the right information, or they don’t trust the information they are getting, or the information they are getting is so frightening, they have the normal reaction.
"It's important that facts outweigh fear, and the reality is we are getting the testing done, getting the information out and deploying health care resources to treat people who need it, so I am reminding New Yorkers that there is no reason for undue anxiety and the general risk remains low in New York," he said.
US hosts a million international students in 2019
The U.S. sent more than 340,000 students to study-abroad programs around the world last year, with nearly 37,000 students going to Italy, the No. 2 most-popular destination. China is No. 7 on the list as a study destination for U.S. students. South Korea is No. 20.
The U.S. hosted more than 1 million international students last year, with nearly 370,000 coming from China, more than 200,000 from India, 52,000 from South Korea, and 37,000 from Saudi Arabia, as the top four sending countries.
The top host states are California, where the governor has issued a state of emergency, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.