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Central Georgia colleges prepare in case of coronavirus outbreak

Wesleyan College, which hosts dozens of foreign students, has created a task force for the virus.

MACON, Ga. — Coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has taken the lives of six people in the U.S., all from Washington state. Two cases have been confirmed in Georgia.

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But, the number of deaths connected with the virus is still far below what we see in a typical flu season. As concerns for the virus grows, several Georgia colleges and universities are making plans on what to do if the virus strikes.

"So we have put together a task force that's made up of campus leaders and kind of thinking about how we'll respond. We're working with three different scenarios," said Melody Blake, provost of Wesleyan College. 

The first is prevention. Scenario two is if the campus has to close down out of precaution, meaning no active cases on campus. And the third is if there's an active case on campus.

"If we need to close, if we have an active case on campus and how we'd respond to that," said Blake.

Wesleyan prides itself on their study abroad trips and the international students they bring in.

"We have about 30 students from China on campus. I don't think we're at higher risk," Blake said. 

China is the epicenter of the outbreak. Luckily, Wesleyan students from China have been here in Macon since winter break. However, their families are at high risk. 

"We're trying to be very empathetic to the difficulties their families may be in," Blake said. 

Wesleyan is also helping their students find housing in the U.S. over the summer if the epidemic continues. As for study abroad trips, Wesleyan, like many schools, have canceled a few. 

"An individual in South Korea, we had to cancel that trip. Another trip going to Italy, we had to cancel that," Blake said. 

They may cancel more. Mandy Johnson, a sophomore theater major, says she plans to travel to England.

"I am very excited for it, but I don't think it's going to keep me from doing that," Johnson said. 

The college hopes so too. Right now, the school says no Wesleyan students are in high-risk countries. However, spring break is next week.

"If they make the choice to do that. They can't come back to campus for two weeks until they're symptom free," Blake said. 

Public colleges in the state are also enforcing those rules. University System of Georgia schools says they're monitoring when and where their study abroad trips will be. 

While Wesleyan hosts dozens of foreign students, the school tells us they've all been in Macon for at least a month since winter break, well past the CDC's safety period. None currently show symptoms of the virus.

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