All international Spring Break mission trips organized by Harding University have been canceled due to escalating concerns and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, the virus causing an international coronavirus disease outbreak. Most groups were scheduled to leave Searcy Saturday, March 7.
Trip leaders were notified around 5 p.m. today of the cancellations and instructed to inform their team members. The five previously planned domestic mission trips will continue as planned.
Director of Spring Break Missions Andrew Baker said there are still logistics to be figured out regarding possible airfare reimbursements, but a final decision had to be made today whether trips would continue or not. Baker said they had to consider the possibility of students getting stuck outside U.S. borders as the global situation rapidly evolves.
“We can only answer what we can answer at this point,” Baker said. “We had to make a decision.”
Students now have the option of joining a newly assembled team traveling to Nashville to assist in cleanup efforts after tornadoes impacted Nashville and middle Tennessee early Tuesday morning.
“One of my concerns is we have a number of students who can’t go home,” Baker said. “So we wanted to make sure there was an option given, and we now have transportation, lodging and food taken care of next week if someone wants to go to Nashville to help clean up.”
The trip to Nashville will also be open to any students who had not previously signed up for a mission trip.
The decision to cancel international Spring Break mission trips came in part due to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding student foreign travel for institutions of higher education.
“Given the global outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) institutes of higher education (IHE) should consider postponing or canceling upcoming student foreign exchange programs,” CDC released Sunday.
In a campuswide email Wednesday, the University advised students and employees planning to travel abroad independently to reconsider due to the uncertainty of the developing situation.
“Many countries appear to be low-risk today, but that could change at any moment as this situation is evolving so rapidly,” the email from the University stated. “Considerations for the locations you are visiting include quarantine requirements, available transportation options, and open and accessible public sites will vary from location to location and are changing daily.”
This announcement came one week after International Programs decided to send home students attending Harding University in Florence. There are no current plans of cancellation regarding other University International Programs or summer Global Outreach mission trips.
More information can be found on the University page Harding.edu/Coronavirus.