CIEE's Perspective on the Current COVID-19 Landscape

Authored by:
James P. Pellow, Ed.D.

James P. Pellow, Ed.D.

We know that COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is causing anxiety for CIEE students, their families, and the international educational community. We will continue to closely monitor the spread of the disease and swiftly make changes as necessary to mitigate the health risk in each location where we operate.

Everyone’s tolerance for risk differs, and it is important for students to have a serious discussion with their families and home institutions about what risks and uncertainties they are willing and permitted to assume.

CIEE’s perspective on the present global outlook and response to COVID-19, based on current conditions and the best available intelligence, is the following:

  • We believe no country will avoid the global spread of COVID-19, including the United States. Therefore, common-sense precautions such as handwashing and avoiding areas with high levels of infection are still the best way to minimize risk and slow the spread of the virus.
     
  • We believe that the health risks posed by COVID-19 remain low for CIEE participants in all study abroad programs currently operating at our locations worldwide. Based on the science and data reported thus far, we believe COVID-19 should be taken seriously, but we should also keep in mind that 82% of all those infected have only minor symptoms and there has been a 99.8% recovery for college-aged students.
     
  • We believe that relative to previous viral outbreaks, this illness has generated an accelerated level of public concern and a concurrent spread of misinformation. While this virus and its dangers should not be dismissed (especially for the elderly or individuals with respiratory or immune deficiencies), they should not be exaggerated either. Much COVID-19 news coverage has focused only on new infections, downplaying cases of recovery. 
     
  • We believe that the unprecedented statement targeting a single, relatively small population, issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on March 1, that all study abroad students should “consider” returning home did not take into account existing practices in study abroad risk management. Unlike typical travelers, students are supported on the ground at their various study sites by professional staff, faculty, and others who work to assure that students are provided information, assistance, guidance, and help when necessary. It is also worth noting that no other industry or group of US travelers, tourists, expats, and military personnel and their family members were asked to “consider” ceasing travel or their work around the globe.
     
  • We believe that the recent joint statement released by the Forum and Pulse is a sound framework for managing this latest global health challenge in a prudent, balanced way.
     
  • We believe that if a CIEE student should fall ill, our well-trained worldwide staff is prepared to support that student. CIEE has 70+ years of experience in supporting students, including students who contract viral illnesses. Our teams will arrange for the best possible medical care, will follow up and ensure that the student’s needs are being met, as we work to coordinate response with the insurance provider and we support the student’s recovery.
     
  • We believe that building bridges between nations and cultures is perhaps more important today than ever, so if we are able to safely continue providing students with education on other societies, cultures, and ideas, we should do so.
     
  • We believe that we owe it to our participants and partner institutions, both current and future, to provide stability and as much predictability as possible in this uncertain time.

Given these beliefs, we want to reaffirm CIEE’s top areas of priority:

  • Safety – We are laser focused on the health and safety of our students and staff.
  • Support – We will continue to provide students with the highest quality academic and intercultural programs, while maintaining unparalleled logistical and emotional support, no matter the circumstances.
  • Stability – We will remain the thoughtful and dependable organization that our partners have relied on for the last 70+ years, especially during times of uncertainty. 
     

In summary, CIEE’s highly experienced centralized team of health and safety professionals will be closely monitoring the disease and its impact on communities around the world. If we receive new information or assessments from the CDC, the U.S. State Department, the World Health Organization, and our staff observation of local conditions that indicate elevated COVID-19 risk, we will immediately respond to the changing landscape and notify you of our risk mitigation plans. But unless and until there is a direct and specific threat that cannot be managed, CIEE does not intend to cancel or suspend any further study abroad operations due to COVID-19.

We believe that international education prepares the next generation of leaders to work across cultures and tackle global crises — such as COVID-19 — that require global cooperation on solutions. CIEE plans to continue bringing the world together to increase intercultural understanding and humanize international relations for as long as we can reasonably manage the risk.

Thank you for your support, patience, and understanding as we keep our focus on the health and safety of our participants, staff, and study abroad community.

Visit our COVID-19 resource page for ongoing updates on CIEE's response.

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