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UC Berkeley explains reasons behind SARS policy changes

Editor's note: On May 10, modified policies were announced that supersede those described below.

UC Berkeley's decision to limit enrollment of some foreign students coming to campus for summer classes was made after serious consideration and in close consultation with the California Department of Health Services and at the strong recommendation of the city of Berkeley health officer.

The regions for which restrictions apply are based entirely upon the Centers for Disease Control list of locations for which Travel Advisories for non-essential travel are in effect. As CDC Travel Advisories are updated, the campus's policy is modified. Already, the restriction on students coming to summer sessions from Singapore has been lifted in accordance with the removal of Singapore from the CDC list.

In recommending that the campus restrict enrollment, public health officials took into consideration three key points:

  1. That more than 500 students from these regions would be arriving for summer session classes, some within three weeks.
  2. Unlike UC Berkeley students, most of whom live in apartments and houses, short-stay summer students typically live in campus residence halls sharing restroom and dining facilities.
  3. Because these short-stay summer students would be coming from countries with significant SARS outbreaks, any student exhibiting SARS symptoms, such as respiratory illness, would have to be isolated for 10 days.

A recent (Feb. 2003) study co-authored by the CDC reported that respiratory tract infections were the second most common cause of illness in travelers. Given the number of students coming from areas experiencing SARS outbreaks, if even 5 percent developed respiratory illness within 10 days of arrival it would have represented a major challenge to the campus's ability to respond.

As Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl stated when he issued the SARS policy on May 2, "We look forward to the lifting of the CDC travel advisories so that we can once again welcome all of these students to our campus."