The word that is inescapable in the news is “coronavirus,” also known as COVID-19. Nations have declared national emergencies due to the virus. Eight states have declared a state of emergency. People are taking more precautions now with their health, washing their hands more, coughing into their arms and staying away from sick people.


What are colleges doing to prevent the coronavirus from spreading across their campuses?


At Benedictine College, President Stephen Minnis sent out an email to all students about the coronavirus and how the college will take more measures to combat the virus.


“This week, I created a multi-discipline Coronavirus Response Task Force to work through other issues that may affect the college,” Minnis said. “The Task Force is charged with refining campus strategies for dealing with contagious diseases. They are looking at things like preventive measures, protocols and available resources. There will be continued communication from that group in the coming days and weeks.”


Minnis and the college are more worried about the coronavirus due to their students abroad who are studying in the now contaminated country of Italy. In the email, Minnis talks about what Benedictine College is doing to make sure the students are safe.


“As you have seen, we have been working with the coronavirus situation in Italy and its impact on our campus in Florence,” he said. “It was a difficult but necessary decision to close the campus for the semester and ask everyone to return to the United States. We have made it clear that all students returning from Italy are to return home and cannot come to campus for 14 days. We have also recommended that students follow instructions from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment or their local health department regarding self-quarantine.”


Benedictine is a Catholic College and makes numerous mission trips to other countries, but with the virus, most of the flights over spring break have been canceled.


As for other spring break travel, the college has asked students to use their best judgment when traveling.


The college now has a website dedicated to the coronavirus to inform students and their families. The website is www.benedictine.edu/coronavirus/index


The University of Saint Mary is stepping up safety procedures at its Leavenworth campus.


“USM is continuing to monitor the coronavirus spread and has a command team in place that has been in touch with both the Leavenworth and Johnson county health departments for guidance,” said John Shultz, vice president for marketing and admissions. “At this juncture, we are not planning on delaying the start of classes (after spring break), but have been taking measures to ensure that classes can be offered remotely if the need arises. We have stepped up cleaning protocols across campus to ensure that buildings are cleaned and sanitized as needed throughout the day.


“We will also be asking students to notify us of any travel to at-risk areas or of any health concerns they have now or develop in the days to come. We are also ready to make immediate accommodations for any student with underlying health conditions that may put them at heightened risk.”


Chloe Berg is a Leavenworth native and a freshman at Benedictine College.