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SARS and Commencement

Updated May 8, 2003

Dear Homewood Students:

As we approach the end of the academic year and turn our attention to Commencement, we want to bring you up to date on our planning regarding SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and its potential impact on the Homewood student community. We have also begun planning for our summer programs and for the arrival of a new group of students in late August, but at the present time we are focusing almost all our attention on the next four weeks.

First, let us emphasize that there are no suspected cases of SARS on the Homewood campus. The most up-to-date information regarding this epidemic continues to be found at the following web sites:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC
  • World Health Organization, or WHO
  • Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • Johns Hopkins University understands and appreciates the importance of Commencement to students and their families. Our primary goal, however, must be the protection of the health of our university community and visitors.

    Therefore, the university strongly urges that any person who has recently resided in or visited a SARS-affected area not attend Commencement ceremonies or related activities if he or she develops any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever greater than 38.0 degrees C (100.4 degrees F) or
  • Cough or
  • Shortness of breath or
  • Difficulty breathing or
  • Headache or
  • Muscle aches
  • For the purposes of this policy, a SARS-affected area is one under a SARS travel advisory from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of this date, the SARS-affected areas under a CDC travel advisory are mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

    We ask students, their families and guests to err on the side of caution. If there is any doubt about the presence of any symptom in a guest who has traveled to the United States from a SARS-affected country, he or she should not attend Commencement or other public events.

    Commencement guests of students from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences or the Whiting School of Engineering who are concerned that they may be developing symptoms of SARS should CALL the Student Health and Wellness Center (SHWC) for advice (410-516-8270). To minimize any potential for spread, they should NOT go to the SHWC unless instructed to do so. When the SHWC is closed, the physician on call may be contacted through Security at 410-516-7777. That physician will provide instructions on how to proceed. On Commencement Day (Thursday, May 22), the SHWC is closed. Again, on that day, the on-call physician may be reached through Security.

    If a guest from a SARS-affected country becomes ill during a Commencement ceremony at Homewood Field, he or she should go immediately to the physician station at the western end of Homewood Field near the scoreboard. At this station, the guest will be directed to the appropriate medical facility.

    We have also finalized our plans for the balance of this semester for evaluating any Arts and Sciences or Engineering students concerned they may have SARS. Any such students should call the SHWC during the day or the on-call physician when the SHWC is closed. Again, to minimize any potential for spread, students should NOT go to the Health Center directly. Students will be given instructions on how to proceed. Students who meet the screening criteria for SARS will be transported to Johns Hopkins Hospital for a more thorough evaluation.

    Some students have asked whether the university has placed restrictions on travel to SARS-affected countries. We continue to recommend strongly that students, faculty and staff follow the travel advisories issued by the CDC. As of May 5, the CDC has issued travel advisories for mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan and recommends that individuals postpone non-essential travel to these countries. Travel advisories for Vietnam and for Toronto, Canada, have been lifted. The CDC and WHO web sites update their travel advice almost daily. Students should consult these web sites for the very latest information.

    We recognize that for some students, the decision about whether to return home for the summer is a complicated one. We want to assist in any way we can. Homewood students can contact the Office of International Student/Scholar Services (410-516-1013) or the Student Health and Wellness Center for advice or information. We will help students from SARS-affected countries who elect to remain in the United States find suitable housing for the summer. Assistance is available from the Office of Off-Campus Housing. Interested students should contact Mireille Miller (410-516-7961).

    The latest news about the SARS epidemic is encouraging. Toronto, Canada, and Vietnam appear to have successfully contained the epidemic. We hope for progress in other countries as well. But until the epidemic is completely contained, the university will take the necessary precautions to safeguard the university community. Our planning process has accelerated as Commencement approaches but rest assured that it will continue as long as necessary.


    Susan Boswell
    Dean of Student Life

    Alain Joffe, M.D.
    Director, Student Health and Wellness Center

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