FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — University of Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz announced Wednesday (March 11) that all university travel, both domestic and international, is suspended due to the threat of COVID-19.
Chancellor Steinmetz sent an email stating that travel will be suspended for the next 60 days and possibly longer in the future.
Right now, all students studying abroad are instructed to return home immediately.
Steinmetz says the COVID-19 Steering Committee recommended this approach for the campus which aligns with the governor's direction.
With spring break around the corner, the chancellor also wants to remind students and staff to rethink plans and ask themselves questions like, 'where are you going and how are you getting there?'.
John Thomas with the University has this advice for students preparing for spring break:
“We just want everyone who is thinking traveling personally to use that as a guide for making their decisions when they do that. But right now there are no restrictions for personal travel, especially over spring break. But we just want them to be prepared for the possibility of certain guidelines and restrictions changing.”
As of right now, U of A sports teams are still traveling. The university says that will be up to the SEC if any changes are made.
Chancellor Steinmetz says the university has a COVID-19 response team who is closely monitoring the evolving situation.
The following is a statement from University of Arkansas Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Hunter Yurachek.
"The health, safety and wellbeing of our student-athletes, coaches and staff is our highest priority. The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has and continues to work in conjunction with University of Arkansas and Southeastern Conference officials in regard to precautions related to COVID-19.
Earlier today, the University of Arkansas announced it was implementing a measure suspending university-sponsored out-of-state travel – both domestic and international – for the next 60 days. Within that directive, however, vice chancellors were afforded the authority to consider travel within their units based on individual circumstances.
At this time, Razorback Athletics is moving ahead with planned team travel and competition with the following additional precautionary measures. Team travel parties will consist of essential personnel. All team travel will be conducted via chartered aircraft and ground transportation. No commercial travel will be utilized for competition. Other travel, not specifically related to competition, will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
We will monitor this evolving issue and continue to work in coordination with directives from the University of Arkansas, the SEC and the NCAA."
With spring break just a week away, U of A students are now rethinking their own plans.
“We had a whole plan to drive down to Houston, stay with my family and then get on a ship the 22nd and go to Cozumel, Jamaica and the Grand Caymans," said U of A junior Hannah Grace Woods.
Woods says those plans have now changed after concerns over the coronavirus.
“All of our parents are like 'absolutely not if y’all get quarantined on the ship, if you get stuck on a military base or wherever you end up, it’s not ideal and you’d be missing a lot of school',” Woods said.
Woods says those plans for a seven day cruise have now changed to a last minute trip to Florida.
“It’s hard. I mean I paid for this trip with all my own money and as of right now the ship isn’t even offering us a full refund," Woods said. "So I’m losing around $600 but they said they are going to give us a voucher for a free cruise within a year but who knows what the year is going to look like this could really plummet their business.”
Aside from canceling the cruise, Woods says she's glad she and her friends were able to plan a different trip. She says she understands why her parents believe it would be the smartest idea.
“I would hate to be stuck on a boat and in a board room with no windows or getting shipped off to go to a military base," Woods said. "None of that sounds ideal. And I would hate to miss that much school. So I agree with them. I have to side with them on this one.”