University of California-Berkeley Bars Students From Asian Nations Affected by SARS
In an "apparently unprecedented" action, officials at the University of California-Berkeley on Friday announced that the school will not allow students from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore to enroll in the summer session because of the threat of infections of severe acute respiratory syndrome, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl said in a statement posted on the university's Web site Friday that the action was based on advice from campus and City of Berkeley health officials. UC-Berkeley -- which has one of the largest populations of East Asian students in the United States -- also enacted new SARS policies, including screening requirements for campus visitors, faculty, staff and students who have traveled to SARS-affected regions (Burress/Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/6). The approximately 500 affected students who were set to start classes May 27 will receive full tuition refunds, at a cost of between $1.5 million and $1.8 million to the university, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Bartindale/Reang, San Jose Mercury News, 5/6). No SARS infections have occurred on the campus, the New York Times reports.
Dr. John Cummins, associate chancellor, said the decision was made because the university lacks the necessary resources to enact the "labor intensive" public health measures -- such as voluntary quarantines -- recommended by the CDC in response to SARS (Murphy/Arenson, New York Times, 5/6). University officials also are requiring that students admitted from those nations for the fall term fill out questionnaires about their health before arriving on campus, Cummins said. However, he added that "if the situation has changed drastically [by fall], we would have to continue to evaluate" whether students from affected regions would be admitted (San Jose Mercury News, 5/6). Berdahl also recommended that current students, faculty and staff not travel to SARS-affected countries, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (Locke, AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/6). Berdahl said the policy would expire if the CDC removes its travel advisories to the areas, the AP/Los Angeles Times reports (AP/Los Angeles Times, 5/6).
The action appears to be "the nation's first measure targeting students from SARS-afflicted regions," according to the Chronicle. Dr. Poki Namkung, Berkeley's health officer, said, "It's a terrible thing to deny a student an opportunity for an education, yet given the situation in China, which is out of control, we felt our primary responsibility was to protect the community" (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/6). The University of California System yesterday issued an statement that recommends authorities on campuses "strongly consider suspending or postponing upcoming programs" involving incoming visitors from regions experiencing SARS outbreaks, the New York Times reports. Cummins said, "We have been very fortunate in the United States not to have to deal with a large number of cases. But in trying to think this through, if we did have an outbreak here, we would be overwhelmed in very short order" (New York Times, 5/6). As of yesterday, SARS had infected 6,583 people and led to 461 deaths in 30 countries and territories, according to the World Health Organization (WHO daily update, 5/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.