Though there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in West Virginia, Dr. Clay Marsh of West Virginia University is advising Mountaineers to employ precautions when traveling for spring break.
The school's Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences, Marsh says non-essential travel should be limited, and he's asking students, faculty, and staff to inform the school of travel plans so officials can keep them appraised of virus hot-spots.
"Everyone has to make a personal decision about their activities, but limiting non-essential travel right now is a prudent thing to do," Marsh said.
"This is especially true for international travel, travel to hot spots in the United States, and on cruise ships.
"We are strongly encouraging students, faculty, and staff to disclose spring break travel plans so that we can help notify them where COVID-19 blossoms and provide guidance on how to respond.
The Centers for Disease Control have issued a travel advisory for cruise ships, Marsh reminds, and cruise-ship travel should be avoided. "Because of the enclosed space and number of passengers, those at risk for serious complications from COVID-19—including older people and those with chronic medical illness—should not travel on cruise ships for now."
Plane travel is safer than ship travel, but airports may be hot-spots for the virus, he warns. "Plane travel is safer than cruise ships, because of the way air recirculates and is filtered, but being in airports and around large numbers of people can increase risk. Avoiding non-essential leisure travel and crowds, for now, is prudent."
For domestic travel, WVU and other universities have banned work-related and non-essential travel within the U.S. and internationally. In the U.S, there are hot spots of COVID-19, and more are emerging. "Some of these hot spots are within New York, California, and Washington state. If traveling this spring, please check ahead at the CDC website to gain up-to-date travel guidance," he says.
The key to avoiding the virus is staying away from people that are sick, Marsh said. "Six feet appears to be a safe distance," he says. "Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap or hand sanitizer, and avoid putting your hands to your face.
"We all still have many responsibilities in our lives, and if you need to travel, travel safely," Marsh says. "There is no need to panic, but it is smart to be informed and prepared."