International travel restrictions due to coronavirus outbreak

This message was sent to the university community through the Office of the Vice President for Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs, in conjunction with the Office of Environmental Health and Safety and the Office of Business Affairs. 

Dear University Community,

I’m sure you are aware of news reports about the Novel Coronavirus outbreak in China. 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a virus (more specifically, a coronavirus) identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is actively providing guidance on the outbreak and UT Health San Antonio is carefully monitoring the situation. Please refer to the CDC website for more information regarding the virus and its impact.

This is a dynamic situation that is changing rapidly. The U.S. Department of State has updated the travel advisory warning to China to a Level 4: Do Not Travel. The university will disallow travel to both China and Hong Kong at this time. We will continue to monitor the situation and update the university community.

If you have family and friends who have been impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak, please know that there are resources for you on campus. The Office of International Services has a reference list on its My UT Health intranet site (VPN required). Also, do not hesitate to contact the Office of International Services if you need any support, referrals or simply a listening ear.

The Office of International Services has received several inquiries regarding arrivals of new international visitors from China to our campus.

As of today, there are no known restrictions on incoming Chinese visitors to the U.S., assuming that they are not from a region that is currently on lockdown. Please refer to the CDC advice regarding what to expect if you are traveling from China to the U.S.

CDC and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are implementing enhanced health screenings to detect travelers with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing when entering the United States.

The screening procedures include:

  • Travelers fill out a short questionnaire about their travel, any symptoms and contact information.
  • CDC staff take the temperature of each traveler with a hand-held non-contact thermometer and observe the traveler for cough or difficulty breathing. If sick travelers are identified, CDC evaluates them further to determine whether they should be taken to a hospital for medical evaluation and to get care as needed.
  • If the traveler does not have symptoms, CDC staff will provide health information cards to take with them. The cards tell travelers what symptoms to look out for and what to do if they develop symptoms within 14 days after leaving China.

As of today, there is no FDA-approved test for the Novel Coronavirus. The only way to do laboratory testing is to send samples to the CDC.

That leaves us with baseline fever monitoring upon arrival, a physical exam by Wellness 360 or other health clinic and then routine symptom monitoring by the individual. If visitors find themselves with respiratory symptoms, they will need to self-report to their sponsoring department and our office will work with them regarding their immigration status.

Departments should work directly with the Office of International Services on incoming scholars from China whose arrival is planned for March or April.

In addition, if you are a visitor from China whose J-1 program recently ended or will end in the near future and you are concerned about your ability to return home, please contact the Office of International Services. We will work with you and your sponsoring department to extend your J-1 documents so that you can remain here until the situation is more stable.

We want to remind you about the potential health impact of the many viruses and flu-related illnesses that typically occur during winter and the importance of taking measures to avoid becoming sick.

We encourage you to follow these practices to keep yourself healthy:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, then wash your hands afterwards.
  • Stay home if you are sick to prevent others from contracting your illness.

As the situation evolves, we will keep you updated of any changes that would impact either international travel or our international population. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, or Environmental Health, Risk, and Safety at 210-567-2955.


Jacqueline Lee Mok, Ph.D, Vice President for Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs

Michael A. Charlton, Ph.D., CHP, LMP, CIH, CSP, CHMM, Assistant Vice President for Risk Management & Safety

Gerard E. Long, Ph.D., M.B.A., CPA, Assistant Vice President for Business Affairs

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