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FAQ: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The CGEE Risk Response team has compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What is the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan, China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19.

There are many types of human coronaviruses, including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans.  Rarely, animal coronaviruses that infect animals have emerged to infect people and can spread between people. This is suspected to have occurred for the virus that causes COVID-19. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are two other examples of coronaviruses that originated from animals and then spread to people.   Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.  Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
What is CGEE doing in response to this situation?
Since this virus first emerged, we have been monitoring this situation from multiple perspectives. We have modified programs most closely impacted by the coronavirus, and we are prepared to make additional changes, as needed.

All programs have developed location-specific COVID-19 guidelines that include a review of precautions taken, safety mechanisms in place, and planning for a variety of scenarios. Our experienced staff at CGEE, in consultation with resources from the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, national health ministries, the U.S. State Department, and EIIA, our international health insurance provider, coordinate overall management of the situation and work with in-country staff.  CGEE staff are seasoned and trained to serve students in a contingency capacity at our international locations.

CGEE’s decision to alter or cancel a program depends on a range of factors, including program location, health resources, and infrastructure within each country, and changing travel restrictions. We have addressed multiple challenges over the course of our more than 40-year history as providers of international education and will continue to face this challenge, with COVID-19.

CGEE also adheres to the Forum on Education Abroad Standards of Good Practice, specifically, Standard 8, which states:
  • The organization prioritizes health, safety, and security in program development, implementation, and management, conducting appropriate risk assessments for program sites and activities, maintaining written emergency plans and protocols, and identifying and leveraging relevant authorities, networks and resources.
  • Staff are trained to anticipate and respond responsibly to student health, safety, or security issues; students are trained to responsibly manage their own health, safety, and security while abroad; and measures are in place for ongoing monitoring of and advising on health, safety, and security issues through a range of U.S. Department of State and other appropriate resources.
  • The organization maintains appropriate kinds of insurance at recommended levels, operates in compliance with local laws, and follows best practices in reporting on critical incidents.

How do I avoid getting sick?
The CDC specifically recommends the following:
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask:
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well to wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.  
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty. 
Where can I learn more about the COVID-19?
There are many excellent sources for information on COVID-19 available to the public including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) website.  Information available on these sites includes symptoms, transmission, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. What if a participant feels they may have the coronavirus?
  • It is important to remember that the symptoms of COVID-19 are very similar to a common cold or the flu. If a participant falls ill and exhibits the symptoms listed for COVID-19, they should reach out to CGEE staff, who will advise them on the next steps to take with local medical authorities.  If participants have been traveling, they should inform the medical authorities where they have been traveling.  Whether they are tested or not for COVID-19 will be the decision of the medical provider.
What if a student needs to be quarantined?
  • If a student has a medically mandated quarantine, due to illness or prior travel, CGEE staff will work with local public health officers to assist in identifying appropriate housing and support students in a quarantine to the fullest extent allowed by local authorities. CGEE would follow this practice with any infectious disease in order to best support the impacted student. 
How are we preparing travelers who might be in a "high-risk group" for contracting the virus - or travelers who care for people who are high risk (infants/elderly relatives)?
  • CGEE will refund all recoverable expenses to anyone who cancels if they are from a group considered high-risk by the CDC.  Those groups are as follows:
    • anyone 60 years of age of older
    • anyone with heart disease or diabetes
    • anyone with lung disease or chronic respiratory issues
    • anyone suffering from an immunodeficiency or receiving immunity-suppressing medical treatment such as chemotherapy
  • To qualify for the refund, the person must produce documentation of their group designation.  For being age 60 or older, an ID with a birthdate will do.  For the other designations, we'll need a note from a doctor.
  • Travelers who care for high-risk individuals back home, and who worry they might need to leave their program to return home to care for them, should purchase "Cancel for Any Reason" trip insurance, which is above and beyond normal travel insurance.  They can look on and filter for "cancel for any reason" to compare policies.  The issue with these or any travel insurance (beyond what we already offer) is that you need to make purchases within 2 weeks of purchasing airfare and depositing.
When would CGEE cancel or suspend a program?
CGEE aims to maintain standard operations, while always keeping the health and safety of participants as a number one priority. Currently, all summer and fall programs are scheduled to run as planned. CGEE may cancel or suspend a program before the end date for the following reasons:
  • The U.S. State Department advisory level for the country is elevated to Level 4, “Do not travel”.
  • The CDC elevates the alert level to a Level 3,  “Avoid all non-essential travel”.
  • The U.S. or other country governments recommend immediate departure or evacuation of all U.S. citizens.
  • Partners within the host country are unable to continue operations because of coronavirus concerns/issues and CGEE is unable to offer quality academic programming.

Does CGEE have recommendations for rebooking a flight?

Here are CGEE’s tips for rebooking a flight:
  • Check to see if your airline is offering an updated flight change policy due to the Coronavirus.  Many airlines are cancelling extra fees and charges for flight changes.
  • Make changes directly on your Airline website, or call them directly, rather than changing your flight on a third party website such as Expedia.
  • If calling your airline directly, be polite and honest and they might be able to reduce your fees if not completely eliminate them. Ask to speak with a supervisor if the person you are speaking with is unable to waive your fees. 
  • Consider Changing your flight rather than cancelling it. This can potentially avoid fees. 

Many airlines are being generous in refunding the prepayments on flights that travelers decide not to take. Check directly with your airline to see their policies — which may change daily as the situation evolves. Below are the Coronavirus information pages for several major airlines: