FAQs: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Answers to your questions about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)
Dragons has been actively monitoring and responding to the Coronavirus outbreak. While we do not anticipate any disruptions to our upcoming Spring Gap Semesters and Summer Programs, we wanted to provide an update to some common questions. Updated February 18, 2020
What is the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Towards the end of December 2019, authorities in Wuhan (Hubei province), announced a cluster of cases of pneumonia associated with a live seafood market, for which a cause had not yet been identified. On 12 December, the first case was detected and within two weeks, 27 people had been hospitalized in Wuhan with pneumonia. Chinese authorities had excluded SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, influenza, avian influenza, adenoviruses and other common respiratory organisms. On 9 January, the World Health Organization confirmed that at least some of the hospitalized patients had tested positive for a novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Chinese investigators conducted gene sequencing of the virus, using a sample isolated from one of the patients. The fact that this new virus has been identified so quickly points to China’s increased capacity to manage new outbreaks. The strain of coronavirus is now given the designation of COVID-19 by the World Health Organization. Coronaviruses are very common. MERS and SARS are in this family, however they are distinct viruses with unique risks.
What is the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak?
As of February 18th, case numbers had risen to 73,000+ with over 1800 deaths, and are expected to continue to climb as new cases are revealed, although there is indication that new infections have slowed within China. Over 99% of all reported cases in the world have been found in mainland China with the majority of those cases limited to Hubei province. This link provides real-time updates. From a global public health perspective, COVID-19 has certainly raised concern; in large part, this is because it is novel and because global health experts are still in the process of learning about the disease, how it began, and how it spreads. That being said, there is some evidence to suggest that COVID-19 may be less of a public health threat than the regular seasonal flu, which kills an average of more than 35,000 people each year in the US alone. What is clear at this point is that the Chinese and global response to the outbreak has resulted in widespread preventative travel restrictions, most recently involving the suspension of flights to/from China by several major airlines.
How has Dragons responded to the COVID-19?
Dragons has been closely monitoring the outbreak since the first cases emerged in December. We have been consulting regularly with our risk management team, regional staff, and a variety of global health experts & organizations including the WHO, CDC, and International SOS. In addition, Dragons has been in touch with similar organizations operating in China and surrounding areas in order to share information and work collaboratively in the interest of our participants.
As we learn about the spread of the disease itself, we are also closely monitoring the Chinese government and international organizations’ responses to contain its spread. Although we do not currently consider the COVID-19 to pose a significant threat to student health and well-being, the increasing travel restrictions on the ground, the unpredictable day-to-day Chinese government response, and the threat of future quarantines prompted us to remove our participants presently based in China in late-January for the time being.
Will the COVID-19 affect future programs in China or other regions?
While we cannot predict the future, we currently do not anticipate changes to our upcoming spring semester courses nor to our summer programming in China or other regions. Based on our present information and analysis, we deem the direct health risk to our participants to be very low. Apart from health considerations, the early stages of the outbreak have resulted in increased travel restrictions in China and the threat of temporary quarantines. Those early stage logistical obstacles make travel difficult right now, and will likely continue to create difficulties over the coming weeks. However, based on past outbreaks in China and elsewhere, we are optimistic that the understanding & containment of the coronavirus will soon improve, and the widespread travel restrictions & health concerns will abate well before our summer programs depart. For these reasons, we do not expect any significant alterations to our upcoming spring semester programming nor to our summer 2020 courses in China or other countries in which we travel.
We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 and heed the advice from a variety of global health experts and sources. We are actively evaluating the situation and will continue to coordinate between in-field staff, global resources, and our risk management team to provide updates over the coming weeks and months. Student safety is our top priority at Where There Be Dragons and we would not hesitate to modify or cancel programs should it ever appear that student health and well-being could not adequately be insured, or if travel restrictions inhibited us from delivering a high quality program experience.
If I have traveled to China recently, or am a Chinese national, can I still come on program?
Yes, you may still come on program if you have traveled to China or are a Chinese national. However, travel restrictions related to this outbreak are changing frequently and vary by country, so we ask that travelers stay informed. Some countries are limiting visas for travelers who have been to China or are entering with Chinese passports. Likewise, many airports have increased screening on Chinese nationals or travelers who have been to China recently. We recommend that participants research this important information and ensure the feasibility of travel based on nationality and travel history.
Where can I find out more about the Coronavirus?
If you would like more information, some of the best online resources on COVID-19 can be found on the websites of the US. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Please do not hesitate to contact the Dragons office at 303-413-0822 should you have questions or concerns about the information provided.