OSU prepares for possible coronavirus outbreak

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As the coronavirus starts to spread into the U.S., OSU and Stillwater begin their plans of action for prevention and treatment of the virus. 

As fear of a coronavirus pandemic spreads around the world, Oklahoma State is preparing for a potential outbreak at home through heightened medical screenings and travel bans.

Since the first outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, the virus has spread to more than 50 countries including the U.S., according to the U.S Centers for Disease Contro. The Coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2 and causes the disease COVID-19, named by CDC.

Oklahoma is currently considered a low-risk region. According to the Oklahoma State Health Department, there have been three people in Oklahoma tested for the virus and all were negative. There are currently two new cases in Oklahoma that are pending test results.

“Oklahoma State currently has frequent communication with the state health departments and the CDC,” Pamela Stokes, associate director of University Health Services, said. “University officials are talking frequently and are preparing for multiple scenarios that could arise.”

Coronavirus symptoms are similar to a cold, including fever, cough and shortness of breath, and UHS is screening all patients that come in with these symptoms for the virus. They also have an isolation room at UHS for patients with concerning symptoms, Stokes said.

“I think the coronavirus will impact a lot of people overseas and some here,” senior Chase Wheatley said. “But I wouldn’t expect it to make it anywhere close to here.”

OSU recently restricted travel to locations that have a CDC Level 3 travel warning, which means all non-essential trips to these places should be avoided. Countries include China, Iran, Italy and South Korea. Spring break study abroad program leaders have been advised to evaluate their plans and the risks for spring break study abroad trips.

“Currently, state travel is banned to high risk areas,” Stokes said. “We are actively monitoring any travelers that are going in and out of the state of Oklahoma with our state health department colleagues.”

OSU is also working with students who are currently studying abroad to determine the best plan of action for them. These students have been given the option to either remain at their location or to return home and complete coursework remotely, said Addison Browne, a junior at OSU who is currently studying in Florence, Italy.

“I’m really sad at the thought that I might get sent back to the U.S.,” Browne said. “All of my friends and family that had planned to visit me had to cancel their trips.”

Along with OSU, the Stillwater Emergency Management (SEMA) and Payne County Health Department are both watching the virus very closely.

“We are aware of the situation at hand, and we are monitoring changes daily,” Emergency Management Director Rob Hill said in a statement. “Working with our core partners to ensure Stillwater’s safety and preparedness is our highest priority.”

As of Saturday, there were 67 confirmed cases in the U.S., 1 confirmed U.S. death and the risk to the public is relatively low, the CDC said.

news.ed@ocolly.com