Boise State’s Emergency Operations team prepares for the Coronavirus

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Mark Buchanan, a professor of law and international business, was teaching abroad in 2003 in Chengdu, China when a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) pandemic broke out. SARS is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can infect people and are known to cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and SARS, according to the World Health Organization.

Buchanan and the other faculty members decided in March to end the semester three weeks early and had students leave in April.

“I think that all things considered you don’t want to jump too early [in making a decision]because the level of disruption is really pretty huge,” Buchanan said. “It impacts lives and programs so you don’t want to be too early but you also don’t want to be too late.”  

Boise State recently announced a ‘Do Not Travel Advisory’ after the state’s Bureau of Consular Affairs declared a Level 4 health concern for the Novel Coronavirus outbreak and is following the guidance of the World Health Organization (WHO), Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of State Travel Advisory information

The Novel Coronavirus is the most recent string of an outbreak first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, with 31,530 cases reported as of now. The United States has had 12 reported cases so far with one death. The closest case reported to Boise is in Seattle, Wash.

“We’re in the monitor and report phase right now so there are no known cases in Idaho, so our focus is protection and prevention,” said Rob Littrell, director for the Office of Emergency Management.

Littrell works with multiple departments on campus to maintain and improve the Boise State Comprehensive Emergency Management and Emergency Operations plans. Currently, the Emergency Management team is working with Boise State Health Services to update the Boise State website with health information on flu shots and personal hygiene.

“It’s going to be really hard to contain. I mean, just like the regular flu it’s going to be really hard,” Littrell said. “So we are just trying to stay one step ahead.”

Their pandemic plan is on level one to protect and prevent Boise State’s students, faculty, staff and families from becoming infected. There are no students currently in China from Boise State but those who planned to study abroad this spring in China have switched their programs to options in Uruguay. 

Right now, students are still allowed to go to China for the summer study abroad trip but the situation will be assessed further in March by the Center of Global Education, according to Corrine Henke, the director of global learning opportunities.

“It’s all based on what the CDC says and the world health organization if they say, ‘Yeah, it’s all clear,’ and then students can make the decision themselves though they could postpone and go next summer,” Henke said. “We don’t have anyone going yet, but let’s say that someone says, ‘Oh, I want to go next summer instead or I want to go to a different program.’ I would just help them move programs or whatever they decide.”

The departments on campus working on the Emergency Operations Plan include Health Services, Center for Global Education, Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Campus Operations (Public Safety, Environmental Health Safety & Sustainability, Risk Management, Facilities Operations & Maintenance), Campus Services, Human Resource Services and Housing & Residence Life.

Presently, the departments’ main goals are to keep communication lines open and prepare as much as possible for the campus to receive a case of the Novel Coronavirus. 

“All of us are tied together and we do regular exercises to prepare but it doesn’t mean that this is going to be easy but we do train for it,” Littrell said. “And that is why we have our EOC [Emergency Operations Plan] active and are monitoring the situation.”

If you have specific medical questions about coronavirus and your health, you can contact University Health Services at (208) 426-1459 or healthservices@boisestate.edu.

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