Amid concerns about health with the rise of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, University of Michigan students have altered travel plans for spring break.

Preeti Malani, University chief health officer; Lindsey Mortenson, medical director of University Health Service; and Robert D. Ernst, executive director of University Health Service, sent an email to University students and faculty Thursday morning noting the University has expanded its travel restrictions to South Korea, moving beyond previous warnings regarding China. The additional restrictions align the University with guidance from the Center for Disease Control.

“Consistent with travel warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of Michigan has expanded its travel restrictions beyond China to include South Korea,” the email stated. “All U-M related travel to these countries, including for faculty and staff, is discouraged. Personal travel to these countries also is discouraged.”

According to the email, all University-related travel to China and South Korea are discouraged, and international travelers are encouraged to build flexibility into their plans. However, while current travel within the United States is not restricted, the email does suggest precautionary measures.

As of Thursday, there are no confirmed cases of the virus in Michigan. However, according to the CDC, there are more than a dozen in the United States. The University will continue to monitor the situation along with health officials at the local, state and national levels to monitor the spread of the virus, the email said.

There are currently 400 cases of COVID-19 in Italy as of Feb. 26. So far, 11 towns have been quarantined and numerous schools, universities and public events have been canceled due to fears related to the virus.

In light of the coronavirus outbreak, some students at the University have rescheduled or altered their trips. LSA sophomore Charlotte Falk was planning to travel to Milan for part of her spring break. One person on the trip with Falk was traveling with her grandmother and originally changed her plans because of the heightened risk for older people. However, Falk said their entire friend group ultimately decided to cut Milan from their itinerary. 

“Initially she made that decision because she was traveling with her grandma, and since coronavirus affects older people more, it was definitely more of a health risk, but the rest of us were still planning on going,” Falk said. “Literally, day-to-day, as the stories increased, we decided it was in our best interest not to go, not only for safety concerns but at a certain point, it came down to a city that was only half-functioning.” 

Falk said they only decided to cancel their Milan trip on Tuesday, and have been scrambling to plan a new trip to Lisbon, Portugal, over the last two days. She said she was frustrated by the cost burden of having to plan a new trip. She didn’t have flight insurance to cover the expense, and flight prices increased as it got closer to their planned vacation date.

“Everything’s been a really quick turnover,” Falk said. “It’s super frustrating, especially wanting to visit friends that were already studying abroad there, but their entire plans are rocked anyway too. I feel like we’re all scampering at the last minute.”

LSA junior Aashika Shetty, who is currently studying abroad in London, said she originally had plans to travel to Milan. However, Shetty and her friends have all decided to cancel their trip because of the health risks. Shetty also said people she knows currently studying in Milan have had school canceled indefinitely due to the outbreak.

“We all made the decision that it’s probably just safer not to go,” Shetty said. “For me, it’s not a big cost to have a flight from London to Milan, so I’m not losing that much money. It’s better to not go than go, and I think it was also for peace of mind, too.”

Reporter Francesca Duong can be reached at

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