Novel coronavirus information

February 27, 2020

COVID-19 update: New guidelines and recommendations for travel

Sent on behalf of the University’s Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases

Dear UW community:

We recognize that media reports and dynamic conditions related to COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) can create uncertainty and anxiety in our community. Our priority remains to keep each other safe and healthy and support one another. We write today to provide travel guidance, and to remind you of best practices to safeguard our community and find and monitor updated information.

Travel restrictions and waivers
As we approach spring break, you may have questions about what to consider before traveling. As a reminder, all UW travel to China remains restricted until further notice. In addition, South Korea has been added to the list of countries where UW undergraduate and graduate students must request travel waivers before undertaking official UW travel. Other countries may be added to this list as the situation develops.

The UW International Travel Risk Assessment and Safety Committee (ITRASC) will consider waiver requests on a case-by-case basis. Without an official waiver, UW funds may not be used to support any travel for students to countries on the travel waiver list, and UW-sponsored travel insurance and emergency assistance will not be available. If you are unsure whether this restriction applies to your travel, or if you are a student with existing reservations for official travel to South Korea, contact

Considerations for international travel
We strongly advise that anyone planning personal travel overseas during spring break or at any time consult current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Travel Notices before departing, particularly older adults and people with chronic medical conditions. Because the situation is changing daily, it is possible that the CDC will add more countries to the list. Students currently overseas with UW Study Abroad or planning to go abroad for spring quarter and beyond should monitor the UW Study Abroad COVID-19 FAQs for updates and guidance.

Students, staff, faculty and other academic personnel planning to travel abroad on personal trips are advised to have contingency plans in the event of major disruptions, such as the possibility of being unable to return to the U.S. due to in-country quarantines. Please carefully weigh the risks and benefits of any international travel, and review UW and CDC information on COVID-19 to learn more.

As a reminder
If you develop symptoms — such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath — after you return from personal or official travel to a country with a COVID-19 outbreak, please take the following steps:

First: Call your health provider in advance. Please do not show up at a clinic, urgent care or other health facility without calling first. Your provider will need to take special measures to protect other people in the clinic.

Second: Check in with the following UW contacts for symptom monitoring and tracking of COVID-19-related travel among UW community members.

  • UW Medicine personnel should contact Employee Health Services (UWMC – Montlake at 206-598-4848, UWMC – Northwest at 206-668-1625, or Harborview Medical Center at 206-744-3081).
  • All other UW Bothell, Seattle and Tacoma students, staff, faculty and other academic personnel should contact UW Environmental Health & Safety’s (EH&S’s) Employee Health Center at or 206-685-1026.

We also recommend that anyone returning from a country with a CDC Travel Notice check in with the secondary UW contacts, even if you have mild or no symptoms. As noted previously, if you are returning from mainland China, please also check in with these contacts and stay home for 14 days.

You can help limit the spread of illnesses
The current risk for people in the state of Washington remains low, and the UW is working in consultation with local and state public health agencies to monitor conditions. You may be able to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 by taking the same steps as you would to prevent infection from the flu and the common cold:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if water is not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home while you are sick and avoid close contact with others.
  • Cover your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.

Where to go for information
This is a rapidly evolving situation. While the information in this email is current as of today, we recommend you regularly monitor both the UW’s coronavirus FAQ page and the CDC’s COVID-19 site for ongoing updates. UW community members considering international travel can also consult the Office of Global Affairs website or contact for advice and consultation.

As a reminder, no one in the UW community has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. Four students who presented symptoms all tested negative for the virus. No additional individuals within the UW community have been identified for testing.

We encourage all UW community members to remain welcoming to and supportive of each other during this public health situation. Offer empathy and care to friends, colleagues and classmates who may worry about family and friends in places experiencing outbreaks. As President Cauce says, we must ensure that our response to the coronavirus threat is not harmed by stigmatizing or stereotyping. We are best equipped to respond to any public health threat when we work together.

Thank you for observing these guidelines. We will continue to update our community as the situation evolves. As always, be sure to register all official UW travel outside the U.S. so that the UW Global Travel Security team is able to contact and support you during your travels.

Geoffrey S. Gottlieb, M.D. Ph.D.
Interim Chair, UW Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases
Medical Director, UW Environmental Health & Safety Department
Professor of Medicine – Infectious Diseases
Adjunct Professor of Global Health
Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Infectious Diseases