Message to Luther Community Regarding COVID-19 Update for Travel through the Spring 2020 Semester and Summer 2020 International Programs

To: Luther College students, faculty, staff, and parents
From: President Jenifer K. Ward
Re: COVID-19 Update for Travel through the Spring 2020 Semester and Summer 2020 International Programs
Date: March 10, 2020 

Dear Members of the Luther College Community:  

On March 6, I sent a message to students, parents, and program directors connected to Spring 2020 international programs regarding the potential impacts of COVID-19 upon program  cancellation, program-sponsored group travel, and individual travel. Today, I am writing to the broader Luther College community to provide updates regarding Summer 2020 international programs and domestic and international travel through the remainder of the semester. Luther College puts the safety of its students, faculty, and staff above all other priorities. The Emergency Response Team (ERT), my Cabinet, the Center for Global Learning (CGL), and I are closely monitoring the guidelines and recommendations, especially those regarding travel, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), the World Health Organization, and the United States Department of State.  

Luther-Sponsored Group Travel for (March through May 2020)
The ERT and CGL have identified programs and students who are scheduled to travel either internationally or domestically between March and May 2020 and have begun the process of reaching out to program directors to discuss options in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. At this time, we are approaching each program on a case-by-case basis. In order to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff during this dynamic situation, we have decided that all program-sponsored group travel that crosses an international border is strictly forbidden through the end of March; determinations regarding group international travel for April and May will be made at a later date. The ERT and CGL will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in the United States and may consider cancelling program-sponsored domestic travel to regions of the country experiencing significant outbreaks.  

Individual Travel (March through May 2020)
Luther College and the IDPH are not in a position at this time to restrict personal travel. We ask that all travelers thoughtfully consider their travel plans, monitor travel information and alerts provided by the CDC, and take precautions. We strongly discourage all individual travel that crosses an international border through the end of March. If an individual travels across an international border through the end of March, the individual may be required at the discretion of the college to self-isolate upon their return for up to 14 days at their own expense. Determinations regarding individual travel for April and May will be made at a later date. We encourage all students and faculty to contact the Student Life Office and the Office of the Dean of the College, respectively, prior to any international travel. 

Summer 2020 International Programs
Working with the Center for Global Learning (CGL), we have identified programs and students who are scheduled to be abroad for summer 2020 and have begun the process of reaching out to program directors and students to discuss options and responses to the rapidly evolving global outbreak of COVID-19. At this time, we are approaching each program on a case-by-case basis. In order to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff participating in international programs during this dynamic situation, we have established the following general protocols to guide our decision making:

  • Programs located in countries listed by the CDC at Watch-Level 1: Practice Usual Precautions will proceed as planned.
  • Programs located in countries listed by the CDC at Alert-Level 2: Practice Enhanced Precautions will be monitored and may be canceled if the healthcare and transportation infrastructure of the host country is determined by the college to be insufficient to support the health and safety of Luther College students, faculty, and staff.
  • Programs located in countries listed by the CDC at Warning-Level 3: Avoid Non-Essential Travel will be canceled.

Luther-sponsored international summer programs
Four Luther-sponsored international summer programs are in various stages of planning:

  • Nottingham Summer Nursing Program, England
  • International Music Festival of the Adriatic (IMFA), Italy
  • Luther Women’s Basketball Team travel, Italy
  • Luther Jazz Orchestra tour, Brazil

In consultation with the program leaders, we made the difficult decision to cancel the IMFA program for summer 2020. In consultation with the program leaders of the other three programs, we have decided to delay decisions until the end of March (or later) in order to gather additional information on the spread of COVID-19 and its effects on travel, health, and daily life in the various locations. 

Partner-sponsored international summer programs
Luther students planning on participating in international partner programs (e.g., API, CIS, ISA, SIT, Caesarea Maritima/Vanderbilt University, University of Oslo, Peace Scholars, etc.) should contact the program provider and the CGL before making any decisions, travel arrangements, or financial commitments for these programs. We will be basing program decisions on insights from onsite partners and our assessment of guidance from the CDC. Because of the evolving nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, we believe it is wise to delay program commitments for as long as possible to enable better decision making. 

Independent international summer travel
Luther students planning on independent international travel for internships and service and research experiences should contact the CGL before making any decisions, travel arrangements, or financial commitments for these programs. Because of the evolving nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, we believe it is wise to delay program commitments for as long as possible to enable better decision making.

We acknowledge that the possibility of program cancellation and the restrictions placed on group and individual travel may cause disappointment. We do not make these decisions lightly, and we ask for your continued understanding and patience as we defer to the authority and guidelines of the IDPH and the CDC in order to keep the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff paramount. In addition, we strongly believe that travel is reciprocal in nature. Travelers from Luther College have the responsibility of making decisions that help to protect the health of the communities in which we have a presence. Our precautions are also designed to help protect those around us, some of whom are elderly and vulnerable.

This is a dynamic situation and should there be changes in the conditions at our program sites or new guidelines offered by the IDPH and CDC, we may adjust the determinations described above. Please keep an eye on your email for future updates. We encourage you to continue to follow preventive actions and travel information provided by the CDC. You may also visit Luther College's Health Advisories Webpage for resources and information about COVID-19. If you have questions, please contact the Student Life Office (563-387-1020; [email protected]) or Health Services (563-387-1045).

Dr. Jenifer K. Ward, President
Luther College