SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — With the holiday season coming to an end, it could be a little tough for some returning international students. Specifically, if they visited their families in China, some regions of Hong Kong and Macau for the holidays. 

Starting Jan. 5, all air passengers two years and older originating from China will have to test negative for COVID-19 to travel to the U.S. The FDA-approved test must be taken no more than two days before their departure from China, Hong Kong, or Macau.

Schools and universities in Savannah like Savannah College of Art and Design, Georgia Southern University Armstrong Campus, and Savannah State University are home to a growing population of international students from China and other countries. The institutions have a Public Health Emergency Response Plan available to anyone interested in order to keep all of their students safe.

John Lester, vice president for University Communications and Marketing at Georgia Southern University, said Georgia Southern continues to actively monitor the COVID-19 virus and is committed to ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by:

  • Regularly monitoring local spread, impact, and policies related to the COVID-19 virus.
  • Offering vaccines as a safe and effective means of protecting ourselves and our community.
  • Offering COVID-19 testing options through our convenient, no-cost campus testing options.
  • Providing automated support to students, faculty, and staff who receive positive test results.

Shalonda Mullgrav,  Interim Vice President of University Advancement and Marketing at Savannah State University said, “We have remained on heightened protocol for COVID 19.  There are no plans for additional restrictions at this time, however, we are closely monitoring exposure on campus and will make adjustments as necessary.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world. However, reduced testing and case reporting in China and minimal sharing of viral genomic sequence data could delay the identification of new variants of concern if they arise. 

Scientists use a process called genomic sequencing to analyze the genetic material found in an organism or virus which can help them track the spread of a virus, see how it is changing and how those changes may affect public health.

Pre-departure testing and the requirement to show a negative test result has been shown to decrease the number of infected passengers boarding airplanes. The CDC also said it will help to slow the spread of the virus as they work to identify and understand any potential new variants that may emerge.

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) met with China about their current surge in COVID-19 cases, to seek further information on the situation, and to offer their expertise and further support.

WHO asked for regular sharing of specific and real-time data on genetic sequencing, disease impact including hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions, deaths, vaccinations delivered and vaccination status.

WHO also invited Chinese scientists to engage more closely in COVID-19 expert networks including the COVID-19 clinical management network and stressed the importance of monitoring and the timely publication of data to help China and the global community to formulate accurate risk assessments and to inform effective responses.

As of today in China, there have been 10,322,499 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 31,914 deaths, reported to WHO.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the majority of international students in the United States in 2021 were Chinese citizens with a total active count of 348,992 students.