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For safety, college isolates students back from China

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College has imposed a two-week waiting period on students who have recently returned from a suspended study-abroad program in China, as a precaution against the spread of a novel coronavirus that was first reported in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31.
Those students will have to wait 14 days — from the date of their departure from China — before they can rejoin their classmates in Middlebury, according to a college policy first reported in the Middlebury Campus newspaper.
“There are 14 students who are observing the 14-day delay,” said college spokeswoman Sarah Ray. “The majority are at home and the remainder are in transition as they travel home or prepare to do so.  We understand that this situation may impact students’ ability to attend classes when they resume on campus on Monday, Feb. 10, and we want to make reasonable adjustments to support individuals who are self-isolating.
Two students who had returned to Middlebury before the college imposed the waiting period will be quarantined in a house on campus, the student newspaper reported.
Because of the waiting period, some students will miss the first few days of the spring semester.
One of those students, junior Benjy Renton, is spending the waiting period at his home in Westchester County, N.Y.
“While our delayed return to campus is most certainly inconvenient and causes us to miss a week of classes, I believe that this decision was made in the best interest of the Middlebury community and in accordance with CDC recommended guidelines for self-isolation for up to 14 days,” Renton told the Independent in an email. “I believe that Middlebury has kept us very well-informed throughout the process of repatriating back to the U.S. and will continue to guide us through the housing and course registration process. While I believe our risk for contracting the virus was quite low, we will continue to monitor our health until we return to campus.”
According to the Campus newspaper, Director of Health Services Dr. Mark Peluso “informed the students that their risk of infection was low because they had left China quickly and because their study abroad location was not near the epicenter of the outbreak.”
The World Health Organization reported on Feb. 4 that there have been 20,471 confirmed cases of the virus in China, where 425 people have died from it. Outside of China, 159 cases have been confirmed in 23 countries, and one person has died of it in the Philippines.
In the United States, 11 cases have been confirmed so far, including one in Boston — but none in Vermont.
The virus is said to cause fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
Middlebury College has created a webpage for sharing coronavirus updates and resources: middlebury.edu/office/announcements.
Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com.

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