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Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs

Last updated: Feb. 13, 2020

What is the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

  • COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that causes respiratory illness. This strain of the virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, and is now spreading through Asia with cases now identified in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continuously updates its website with information as public health officials learn more about the virus. Visit the CDC's website.

What are the symptoms of the coronavirus?

  • Symptoms related to the coronavirus include: cough, runny nose, sore throat, difficulty breathing and fever. In severe cases, pneumonia and other complications can develop, especially for infants, older adults or those with underlying health conditions.

How is it transmitted?

  • While the first known cases are thought to have spread from animals to humans, the CDC notes there is evidence that the virus is spread person to person. Find additional information about how other strains of the human coronavirus are spread on the CDC’s website.

What should I do if I arrived from China prior to February 2?

  • Watch for any changes in your health for 14 days after leaving China.
  • If you get a fever or develop a cough or difficulty breathing during this 14-day period, avoid contact with others.
  • Consult your doctor or healthcare provider about your symptoms and your recent travel. They will help coordinate your medical visit to reduce the risk of spreading illnesses to others.

What should I do if I arrived from China on or after February 2?

  • There are new procedures at U.S. airports as of February 2.
  • All travelers from China are assessed at the airport. Most will be required to self-monitor for symptoms and may be required to limit activities for 14 days. If symptoms occur, travelers are required to stay home and consult with their healthcare provider immediately to discuss next steps (same as above). Based on the assessment completed at the airport – specific travel history and symptoms – some travelers may be placed in isolation immediately, may have requirements to limit their activities, and/or may be monitored by public health officials for 14 days.

If contracted, how serious an illness is coronavirus?

  • For confirmed coronavirus infections, reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying.

How can I protect myself from contracting coronavirus?

  • The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.
  • The CDC recommends avoiding non-essential travel to China.
  • Take steps to prevent the spread of any respiratory virus, including coronavirus by doing the following:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
    • Avoid close contact with persons who have respiratory illness symptoms
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surface

Is there a vaccine?

Where can I get more information?

Am I at risk?

  • According to MDH and CDC, the risk to the general public is low.

How is the University addressing this issue?

  • We are fortunate to have a robust public health emergency planning and response system on campus. Efforts on the Twin Cities campus are coordinated by the Health Emergency Response Office (HERO) and the Campus Public Health Officer, Dr. Jakub Tolar, with participation from many departments including Boynton Health, GPS Alliance, University Relations, Housing and Residential Life, and many others. HERO convenes response teams to address public health issues multiple times each year. 
    • In the past this group has coordinated campus-level planning and response efforts for H1N1 influenza, mumps, norovirus, measles, TB cases, Ebola, Zika and more.
  • Health emergency response partners are addressing 2019 novel coronavirus in many important ways.
    • We are working closely with the Minnesota Department of Health to ensure the health and wellbeing of our campus community. While concern has been expressed about the risk of the coronavirus on campus, there are currently no confirmed cases on any University of Minnesota campuses. 
    • Following our own public health protocols, and in accordance with CDC and MDH recommendations, all patients seeking treatment for fever and respiratory illnesses at Boynton Health will be asked about their overseas travel.
    • Additionally, if there is the possibility that a patient has contracted the virus, they will be isolated while at the clinic. MDH will work with the CDC for additional testing and diagnosis and will advise on next steps. 
    • Should a laboratory-confirmed case be identified, MDH will contact anyone who may have come into close contact with the confirmed case of coronavirus. All close contacts will be provided with detailed health information and will be monitored for symptoms of the virus. 
    • The University will remain in close contact with MDH as they continue to monitor the situation. Should guidelines change, we will communicate with the campus community. 

How is Boynton Health assessing persons with exposure concerns?

  • Following our own public health protocols, and in accordance with CDC and MDH recommendations, all patients seeking treatment for fever and respiratory illnesses at Boynton Health will be asked about their overseas travel.
  • Additionally, if there is the possibility that a patient has contracted the virus, they will be isolated while at the clinic. MDH will work with the CDC for additional testing and diagnosis and advise on next steps. 

Why are some people wearing masks on campus?

  • It is common in many cultures, including in the U.S., for individuals to choose to wear masks as a way to minimize direct contact with airborne pathogens. The wearing of a mask is voluntary and should not be interpreted as an indication that the wearer is ill, but that the individual is both cautious and courteous in a public environment.

Do I have to go to class?

  • Yes; however, if you are feeling ill or if you have a respiratory illness of any kind, with fever and cough, consider staying home and away from school or work to prevent spreading it to others. Contact your professor if you have questions about covering your coursework.
  • If you are unable to attend class due to illness, you should contact your instructor immediately via email or phone. If verification is requested, please see the University's Makeup Work for Legitimate Absences Policy and the Self-Reporting of Medical Absence form.

Do I have to go to work? 

  • Yes; however, if you are feeling ill or if you have a respiratory illness, with fever and cough, consider staying home and away from work to prevent spreading it to others. Contact your manager if you have questions about covering your work.

Who can I contact if I have questions?

  • Those with concerns about possible exposure should contact their primary health care provider. 
  • For Boynton Health patients, the 24/7 Boynton Health Nurse Line is 612-625-7900.

Should campus events be canceled?

  • Based solely on public health reasons about the coronavirus, MDH is not recommending cancelling campus events at this time. However, it is the height of respiratory illness season. Please take preventative steps to stop the spread of viruses. This includes thorough hand washing; avoiding touching your nose, eyes and mouth with unwashed hands; and avoiding contact with people who are sick. MDH and the CDC are continuously reviewing the situation and may make additional recommendations in the future.

Will study abroad programs in China continue for the Spring 2020 semester?

  • The University of Minnesota has suspended student travel and education abroad programs in China for the Spring 2020 semester. This is in accordance with recommendations from the CDC and the U.S. State Department.

  • Students scheduled to depart this spring for University programs in China are being re-routed to other international destinations or offered assistance in returning to campus for the spring semester. GPS Alliance will continue to monitor the student travel registry and communicate this information to any new students who register travels to China for any reason.

What is the University’s recommendation to faculty/staff planning to travel to China?

I am a person impacted by the evolving situation in China and it has left me feeling anxious and worried. Where can I turn for help?

The University recognizes this is a stressful situation for many members of our community, especially those who are from or have family and friends in the affected area.

For students on the Crookston campus,

For students on the Duluth campus:

For students on the Morris campus,

For students on the Rochester campus,

For students on the Twin Cities campus:

Students can also call the U of M Crisis Line at 612-301-4673 anytime or text "UMN" to 61222 on evenings and weekends. 

For scholars and employees who are eligible for employee benefits, please contact the Employee Assistance Program.