COVID-19: Be Prepared for an Evolving Situation

February 26, 2020

George Washington University officials are asking the GW community to be vigilant and assist in avoiding the spread of misinformation about COVID-19, a respiratory virus that, until a few weeks ago, had been known as the novel coronavirus.

As of February 26, the United States has 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19, many of them are persons repatriated to the U.S (on the cruise ship and from China). There are no confirmed cases in the District of Columbia, Maryland or Virginia, but CDC officials said they expect to see the number of cases increase as the disease spreads, while also stressing that the immediate risk remains low.

International Travel

The CDC is currently recommending only essential travel to China and South Korea (Level 3), and that travelers to Iran, Italy and Japan (Level 2) take enhanced precautions due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in those countries. Based on current conditions, the university has extended its travel restrictions for GW-affiliated student travel to China until March 31. Officials are monitoring the developing situation in Italy and are in direct contact with the students in that country who are on GW-related travel.

Because the public health situation is dynamic and we know that risk tolerance varies by individual, students and their families should make the final decision about what is best for their situation. The university will work with individual students on a case-by-case basis to support and help students navigate the completion of their academic work whenever possible. GW community members who are currently on GW-related international travel or had plans for travel later this semester, and have questions should contact the Office for Study Abroad at [email protected].

Spring break is rapidly approaching, and if you are planning personal travel to an international destination, we strongly recommend that you be mindful of potential risk of disruptions to your reentry to the United States and your ability to successfully return to class and/or work.

What GW is Doing

While there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases with a connection to GW, the university has advised the entire GW community of official notices and resources regarding health precautions, travel safety, and related key information on COVID-19 as the information is made available. The university is taking the following steps across campuses to assist in keeping members of the GW community healthy.

  • Hand sanitizing stations have been placed in the residence halls and other centralized locations throughout GW’s campuses.
  • The shuttles and SafeRide vehicles are being wiped down on a regular and frequent basis along with other high-touch areas.
  • Sanitizing wipes have been placed in the food courts to give you the opportunity to wipe down your surfaces or your devices. Wipes will also be added to the computer labs around campus if you wish to clean the keyboards prior to use.

What You Can Do

The best ways to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses (which includes the flu) are to:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Immediately throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Get a flu vaccine if you have not yet done so.

Stay Informed

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the university’s own public health experts assure there is no reason to believe that any member of the GW community is at a higher risk for contracting this virus.

“The International Services Office (ISO) has campus resources available to assist with coping,” said Jennifer Donaghue, director of the International Services Office. “Diversity is one of the strengths of the GW community and we are here to support affected students and communities. Please join us in sharing accurate information about COVID-19 by reviewing the FAQ sheets and continuing to welcome and provide support to all members of GW.”

The university's public health team continues to evaluate current conditions and the advice from CDC and medical partners. GW continues to evaluate its preparedness actions.

The Division of Safety and Security continues to monitor the situation and will respond accordingly. Remember to stay informed through trustworthy sources, like the CDC, the World Health Organization and local health departments. For updated Frequently Asked Questions (and answers) please check out our campus advisories page.