February 3, 2020
I am writing to follow up on ongoing communications you have received about coronavirus—more formally known as 2019-nCoV. We have established a working group that is monitoring the virus as it materializes in different locations around the globe. And we have contingency plans in place for the possibility of an outbreak in Boston or on our campus. As you know, a case of the coronavirus has now been reported in Boston, one of eleven cases identified to date in the United States.
We live in an era of accelerating globalization. Because of this, we have opportunities to travel, to trade, and to learn around the world—opportunities that would have astounded people from earlier generations. The Boston University community is greatly enriched by the presence of students and scholars from every corner of the globe. And, as you know, we strongly encourage our students to take advantage of our opportunities to study abroad.
A side effect of our ability to travel great distances is that a virus or bacteria can hopscotch around the planet, as is happening now. That is the bad news. The good news is that health authorities around the world are communicating and planning together—racing to control this coronavirus. Last week we cancelled our spring semester study abroad program in Shanghai before students left to begin the program; temporary travel restrictions and screening are the most effective means of limiting the spread of the virus.
Our shared challenge is to anticipate infectious disease outbreaks and, in the short term, to prepare sound contingency plans and, in the long term, to develop cures. We do that here in our research laboratories, including the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories on the Medical Campus. International collaboration and free exchange of ideas and data will be key to our success.
The outbreak of a disease on a global scale—especially when there is extensive press coverage—can sow seeds of recrimination and suspicion that promote division and distrust. These reactions are unproductive and ungenerous. Our focus must be on solutions. Our tradition at Boston University is to be open and welcoming to all. We must hold fast to this tradition. I especially hope that everyone in our community will be mindful that a significant number of our students from China have friends and family who have been affected by the coronavirus. Our thoughts are with them.
We will continue to monitor the spread of the coronavirus and to be in contact with all relevant authorities. Please continue to read updated reporting on the coronavirus in BU Today and watch for updates from our working group. We seek to provide the most timely and accurate information possible.
Robert A. Brown