In light of the increasing spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) around the world, we want to share an overview of how CIEE evaluates location safety, and what stakeholders can expect should we decide we need to suspend any of our current or upcoming programs due to concerns for student safety or our ability to provide a program free from academic disruption. Bear in mind that CIEE has a long history of anticipating and responding to world events as they unfold, whether they be natural disasters, social unrest, or – as now – disease outbreaks. At all times, student safety is our absolute number one priority.
Thankfully, we have to date no reports of any onsite CIEE students or staff contracting COVID-19 in any country. CIEE’s worldwide staff continue to keep a close eye on the latest developments in the disease’s spread, and on any related travel restrictions that may impact our ability to deliver safe, academically rigorous, and meaningful programs. We will adjust safety mitigation measures as warranted to ensure our students have a safe and successful experience abroad.
CIEE Location Risk Assessment Guidelines
CIEE generally follows U.S. State Department Travel Advisory and Centers for Disease Control Warning level alerts, as well as World Health Organization advice, to determine location safety. If a country or city is below a U.S. State Department Level 3 and a CDC Warning Level of 3, it is normally well within CIEE’s risk tolerance (i.e. U.S. State Department Level 2 and CDC Level 2 are our normal maximum operating levels). Any elevation in advisory levels indicates a change in condition, prompting us to review the situation in detail to assess impact on our participants and staff, and evaluate whether we can maintain our programs.
Our assessment includes information from all available intelligence, including local staff, our intelligence providers, the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), and cross-reference with our partner health and safety professionals in academia (Pulse). Sometimes the warnings are particular to a region or a group of people and we can safely and confidently mitigate the risk. Frequently, our review aligns with the government advisory and mitigation proves impossible or impractical and we decide to suspend a program or our operations overall.
Suspension of a Currently Running or Upcoming Program
Should we determine the need to suspend a currently running program, we will immediately notify students and their home institution advisors, while onsite staff ensure the safety and well-being of impacted students, including relocating students outside of the high-risk area. In parallel, we will determine what options are available for students to complete the academic requirements of their program. In all such situations, we will be in direct and constant contact with impacted students and their home institution advisors.
Should an upcoming program be suspended, we will swiftly notify students and home institution advisors, providing you and your students with a list of alternative study abroad programs in different locations that might meet students’ academic and personal needs.
Timelines for Decisions about Program Suspensions
The safety of CIEE students is our highest priority, and all of our decisions about program suspensions will reflect that commitment to student safety. In addition, there are many logistical and academic factors, including travel restrictions, that must be taken into account when evaluating whether a program can safely and successfully run.
Because the global health outlook related to COVID-19 is fluid and can change rapidly, the timing of our program suspension decisions will be based on a balance of global health news, public health and safety advisories, travel restrictions, visa application dates, and program deadlines, as well as institutional and student feedback.
Please rest assured, once a decision has been made to suspend a program, we will promptly notify students, parents, and advisors, and will provide details about alternative program options.