University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy is seen in this Sept. 12, 2019, file photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

The University Maine System’s chancellor said the system is taking several steps, including canceling trips and prohibiting travel to certain countries, because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the new coronavirus.

Chancellor Dannel Malloy said that student academic trips to China and Italy have already been canceled or postponed. And the system has prohibited student travel to China and South Korea — and will likely extend that to Italy and Japan based on future recommendations from federal agencies.

“There is this monitoring that needs to take place, almost on an hourly basis,” Malloy said. “And we are in communications with CDC, here in Maine, as well as our federal authorities, as well.

Officials said that no students are currently in China. One faculty member is in the country and is teaching a class remotely.

Malloy said the university system is also taking steps to ensure that courses can continue online if campuses are forced to close for extended periods of time.

Malloy said that he doesn’t want the plans to worry students, but assure them that both health and education are being prioritized.

“It may mean that assignments change, and readings change — and even testing changes,” he said. “But we’re smart enough and nimble enough to make sure that people are not losing as a result of circumstances well beyond their control. That their health is being protected, and that their education is being protected.”

There are currently 70 known cases of the coronavirus within the United States, according to NPR, but none in Maine. Two people in Washington state have died.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.