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Coronavirus Update and Next Steps

*Published February 29, 2020

This letter was published and shared on February 29, 2020. This is a rapidly changing situation and Salem State University is closely monitoring developments of the Coronavirus outbreak. Learn the latest updates.

Dear Campus Community,

Salem State University is closely monitoring developments related to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Although in Massachusetts, the flu virus is currently of greater risk, we want to alert the community that Salem State is making plans in preparation of a possible outbreak of the coronavirus in Massachusetts. Further, we are working to accommodate students who are studying abroad or were planning to travel abroad to affected areas during spring break. 

Students Currently Studying Abroad

The university is in contact with all students currently traveling abroad. Countries experiencing elevated threat levels according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include China, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea. For students studying abroad in any of these countries, Salem State will work with each student individually to ensure that their academic progress remains on track if they choose to return home sooner than planned. The university will also cover additional costs related to arranging an earlier flight.

Salem State is not requiring that these students return home, but rather, wants to assist students in doing so if they choose. The Center for International Education is staying in contact with students, and students are also encouraged to pay close attention to information or guidelines provided by their host campus or program provider.

International Students Studying at Salem State

We realize that international students may have planned to return home during spring break. If your home country is experiencing an elevated threat level and you would like to stay on campus during spring break, please speak with the Center for International Education (CIE).

Please know that if you are an international student, you may be denied reentry to the U.S should you leave the country. The White House has suspended entry to the U.S. for foreign nationals arriving here who were physically present in the People's Republic of China (excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau), during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the U.S.. In addition, the U.S. Embassy in China has temporarily suspended regular visa services.   

Making Determinations About Travel Plans

Salem State University has placed a moratorium on all university-related travel to China. As of February 25, the CDC advises against nonessential travel to China and South Korea. The CDC has advised those traveling to Iran, Italy and Japan to practice enhanced precautions.

If you are planning on traveling abroad to one of the affected areas listed above, please notify the following departments:

Students: Counseling and Health Services: 978.542.6413
Faculty and Staff: University police: 978.542.6111

Please also consider the below:

  • If you are a U.S. citizen, consider registering with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at to receive real time updates on travel advisories in the country where you are traveling.
  • If you find yourself in an affected area, you may experience some challenges upon your return. You may be required to abide by a 14-day quarantine if you are considered a person at risk for example, if it is discovered you were sitting next to a newly discovered COVID-19 case on an airplane.
  • If you are an older adult, or someone with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, hypertension, diabetes, or have an immunocompromised status you may be at risk of developing severe disease if exposed to COVID-19.
  • If you become ill overseas, some countries affected will have limited access to medical care.
  • Emergency evacuation travel insurance may not apply.

Campus Preparedness

While cases of coronavirus have been detected in the U.S., the CDC stated as of February 27: “At this time, this virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States.” Salem State is preparing for the possibility of the virus spreading in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Campus leaders are updating the university’s pandemic plan, which includes response protocol should there be a suspected case on campus, as well as a continuity of operations plan should the university have to temporarily close offices or buildings. Faculty are asked to refer to the course information policy, which is required to be included with every syllabus. At this time, there are no changes to any planned campus activities. We will continue to update the community as needed.

Protecting Yourself and Others

Members of the campus community should be taking steps to protect themselves and other from the flus and other viral infections. These include:

  • Getting your flu shot. If you have not yet received your flu shot this season, please do so to protect your own health and that of your family friends and our community.  
  • Frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds (the length of the “Happy Birthday” song);
  • Using hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands;
  • Covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing;
  • Refraining from smoking or vaping or reducing your frequency of use while feeling sick;
  • Disinfecting common surfaces regularly (door handles, counter tops, remotes, elevator buttons, etc.);
  • Avoiding people who are sick;
  • Getting adequate sleep, proper nutrition and staying hydrated;
  • Staying home if you have the flu or another infection with a fever of 100.4F or greater. (Faculty and staff should refer to the employee handbook).

Protocol Following Potential Exposure

If you become ill overseas or upon return, especially if you have traveled to an area in the past 14 days where COVID-19 is present and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing:

  • Seek medical advice. 
  • Call ahead before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel to an area with community spread of coronavirus, and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Do not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean your hands by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol immediately after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.


Any student who has reason to believe that they may have been exposed to the coronavirus should call Counseling and Health Services (CHS) to discuss and schedule an appointment at 978.542.6413.

Faculty and Staff

Faculty and staff members who have reason to believe that they may have been exposed to the coronavirus should contact their primary care provider or local emergency department. Notifying health care professionals prior to arriving at their facilities is important to containing the virus. Please also alert Gene Labonte through Salem State’s university police at 978.542.6111. 

Thank you,

John D. Keenan, president
Gene Labonte, assistant vice president for public safety and risk management  

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