Please review the answers below addressing commonly asked questions.
If your question is not mentioned, please refer to the following contacts:
- International students, International Student Office, email@example.com
- Student-athletes, Suzanne Sweeney, firstname.lastname@example.org
- All other students, Residence Life, email@example.com
Last Updated: August 3, 2020, 11:32 a.m.
Students are permitted to leave campus, however, we recommend that our students remain in the Mercyhurst "bubble" as much as possible to keep our campus safe from community spread of COVID-19. Students who travel internationally or to a state currently identified as a "hot spot" will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon their return (if a student is simply traveling through a hot spot state but not actually spending time there, no quarantine is required). We also ask that students keep in mind the risk of exposure any time they leave campus and practice strict social distancing and mask wearing to prevent bringing COVID-19 onto Mercyhurst's campus.
Mercyhurst University offers several online programs. In-person classes may be taken remotely in the event the student has a qualified disability under the ADA which may be accommodated through remote learning. Students interested in requesting an online course as a reasonable accommodation can do so through submitting a request to the ADA Committee through the university's accommodation software.
Additional information can be found in the university’s ADA Policy. If you previously completed the online application for academic accommodations and currently receive accommodations, please log in to your accommodation software account and submit your request through the Additional Accommodation Request Form found in "My Dashboard."
Returning from international travel: If you are returning from an international location within 15 days of your return to Mercyhurst you will need to quarantine.
Arriving from states designated as “hot spots” and found on the PA Governor’s list: If you return to PA from a designated state within 15 days of your return to Mercyhurst you will need to quarantine.
During quarantine, you stay in your living space for a set number of days, keep away from others, monitor yourself for fever or other symptoms, and rely on supports to deliver groceries and supplies. You do this because it is believed you come from an area identified at a higher risk for COVID-19.
You are only permitted on campus during your quarantine period if you made a reservation for quarantine housing on campus. And during this period, you are only permitted in your quarantine housing.
Otherwise, you may not be on campus during your quarantine for any purpose. If you choose to come to campus during your quarantine period or violate the quarantine terms, you will be subject to severe and immediate sanctions including suspension of the fall semester or expulsion (in these circumstances, there will be no refund of your tuition, fees, room or board).
The quarantine period for COVID-19 is 14 full days. Your quarantine start date would be the day you return from international travel OR the date you arrive on campus from a designated state on the PA Governor’s list.
Students returning from international travel: Start quarantine as soon as you arrive back in the U.S. Count the day you arrive as day 0 and add 14 days. Stay in quarantine through and including day 14. If you do not develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, you leave quarantine at the start of day 15.
Students from the “hot spot” states: Day 0 is the day you arrive in PA from your designated state. If that date is August 1, add 14 days and quarantine from August 1 through and including August 15. Quarantine would end at the start of Aug 16. This time frame is called your quarantine period.
Students from a “hot spot” state: Before you arrive on campus, you need to provide us with verification of your quarantine.
Students returning from international travel: Before you arrive on campus, you need to provide us verification of the date you arrived in the US.
Examples of verification could include copy of a boarding pass with your name, date and travel destination; or a verification letter from family and their contact number.
If you have friends/family who do not reside in the states listed above and are willing to have you stay with them during your quarantine period, you are welcome to do so. Please note, this housing arrangement cannot include any Mercyhurst employees or current students. You will need to verify that you stayed in mandatory quarantine throughout the entire period and that you were not in your home country or in any one of the “hot spot” states listed above during this time. Canadian students who are planning on quarantining in the U.S. prior to the start of classes should contact the International Student Office before making arrangements in order to ensure that their plans follow the current travel restrictions.
We expect most students and families to understand the importance of protecting self and others from the spread of COVID-19, and to follow campus policies designed to protect the university community.
The university policy on quarantine is taken very seriously. If you choose to come to campus during your quarantine period or violate the quarantine terms, you will be subject to severe and immediate sanctions including suspension of the fall semester or expulsion (in these circumstances, there will be no refund of your tuition, fees, room or board).
If you are living in a non-designated state and are simply passing through a designated state for a brief period of time for a meal or a rest stop on your way to PA, you would NOT have to quarantine.
No, if you have been staying in a non “hot spot” state for 15 continuous days or more prior to arriving at Mercyhurst, you will not have to quarantine.
No. In this example, your quarantine period started the day you arrived in the U.S. early in July and extended for 14 more days. You don’t have to quarantine again unless you plan to stay in a designated state or travel internationally before going back to campus.
Note: International students planning to arrive back in the US early should contact the International Student Office to be sure your stay will be considered compliant with US regulations.
Remote instruction allows for faculty to continue to facilitate the educational goals and objectives of the course(s) they are teaching. A variety of instructional tools are used including, but not limited to, Blackboard, Teams, and email. Remote simply means that instruction does not take place with everyone in the same location.
A new coronavirus was detected in Wuhan Province in China late December 2019. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that include the common cold as well as more serious diseases. The strain that emerged in China in late 2019 is related to others that have caused serious outbreaks in recent years, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
COVID-19 is the illness resulting from the new coronavirus. It is characterized as an acute respiratory syndrome characterized by fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing. It spread quickly from the Wuhan Province to many other parts of China before appearing in other countries. By the start of March 2020, it had appeared in 65 countries resulting in over 90,000 cases and causing over 3,000 deaths.
CDC generally looks for two key things when determining whether to suspect COVID-19: symptoms of lower respiratory illness/fever combined with a history of potential exposure to the disease.
Exposure to the disease is suspected if a person has recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19 or has been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19.
The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after such an exposure and can range from mild to severe.
- A fever of 100.4 F or more and/or
- A cough that is often dry and deepens, and reflects problems in the lower (not upper) respiratory track and/or
- Shortness of breath
- A hospitalization for severe acute respiratory issues that don’t appear due to any known cause
Call your healthcare provider if you develop symptoms, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 OR have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19.
There is a test to detect COVID-2019. However, due to some test kit problems, the number of tests available in the United States has been low compared to several other countries. Up until March 3rd an individual had to meet certain CDC criteria before a person could be tested for COVID-19. Efforts are underway on a national level to increase the number of available test kits so that local hospitals and physicians can more readily conduct testing at a local level. As of March 4, CDC criteria for evaluating persons shifted to the following:
As availability of diagnostic testing for COVID-19 increases, clinicians will be able to access laboratory tests for diagnosing COVID-19 through clinical laboratories performing tests authorized by FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Clinicians will also be able to access laboratory testing through public health laboratories in their jurisdictions.
This expands testing to a wider group of symptomatic patients. Clinicians should use their judgment to determine if a patient has signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and whether the patient should be tested. Decisions on which patients receive testing should be based on the local epidemiology of COVID-19, as well as the clinical course of illness. Most patients with confirmed COVID-19 have developed fever and/or symptoms of acute respiratory illness (e.g., cough, difficulty breathing). Clinicians are strongly encouraged to test for other causes of respiratory illness, including infections such as influenza.
Epidemiologic factors that may help guide decisions on whether to test include: any persons, including healthcare workers, who have had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset, or a history of travel from affected geographic areas (see below) within 14 days of symptom onset.
While more is still being learned about how the disease is transmitted, it is believed that the virus is transmitted when there is close contact (defined by the CDC as a) being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time; close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or b) sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case or having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on)) between an infected and noninfected person occurs allowing droplets from the coughs and sneezes of the infected person to land on the other and make its way into the lungs. This means that the best preventive measures at this time are handwashing (or hand sanitizer), social distancing, and frequent cleaning of surfaces that may contain droplets.
It is estimated that about 80-82% of individuals with COVID-19 will have a relatively mild case and will readily recover. About 16-17% may develop significant pneumonia or other complications and have a more difficulty recovery. Within this group are individuals who will require hospitalization. There is currently an overall case fatality rate of about 3% utilizing available international data.
Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. About 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 become seriously ill and develop difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.
To prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and other respiratory infections, the CDC recommends the following prevention measures:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Voluntary Home Isolation: Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. The CDC recommends the use of proper hand-washing techniques to further the effectiveness of this method.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty. The CDC recommends the use of proper hand-sanitizing techniques to further the effectiveness of this method.
In addition to avoiding close contact (within 6 feet) of people who are sick, and staying home if you are ill, the following strategies may help reduce your risk.
- Avoid large gatherings of people
- Keep a distance of at least 3 feet when in a setting where others appear to have symptoms of fevers/coughs/shortness of breath
- Reduce your social commitments and engagements
- Explore workplace opportunities to reduce the number of face-to-face meetings and utilize non-contact information sharing instead
- If your workplace permits, arrange to do some work from home to reduce hours on site
After careful review of CDC guidelines, Mercyhurst is implementing a mandatory quarantine of 14 days for all students, both domestic and international, who have traveled internationally within the two weeks preceding their arrival to campus.
Students who are subject to the quarantine requirement will need to return to Mercyhurst between July 28 and August 31 in order to begin the fall semester. Students who cannot arrive within this window due to circumstances beyond their control must reach out to the International Student Office as soon as possible to inquire about possible accommodations.
Stakeholders across the Mercyhurst community are working diligently to finalize plans for quarantine. As such, more detailed information will be released shortly. Most students will be quarantined in housing facilities at our North East Campus. Food will be provided during the quarantine period, and you will be able to remotely participate in your courses while in quarantine.
For each day in quarantine prior to August 16, the university’s official move-in date, you will be assessed a $35 pre-arrival accommodations fee. Charges will not be assessed past August 16. The pre-arrival fee will be posted to your student account when you arrive. We understand that this cost may be an added burden to some students. However, this fee provides for additional days of housing beyond those in your housing contract, meals during quarantine, and the appropriate security and cleaning staff. We have worked hard to keep this cost low. Many other institutions are assessing significantly higher fees or requiring students to seek hotel accommodations for 14 days after arriving in the States.
Mercyhurst University, as an institution, enacted the quarantine requirement after careful review of published CDC guidelines and advice from local health experts. As such, the International Student Office does not have the authority to offer exemptions to the quarantine policy.
Normally, if an F-1 student will be outside the United States for more than five months, it is not considered a temporary absence. As a result, their SEVIS record is terminated. However, on July 14 , universities were given permission to revert to flexible addendum issued by ICE in March. This means that if you are a returning student and you register for full-time credits through Mercyhurst remote instruction, you will be able to maintain your immigration status from outside the United States.
The flexible addendum issued by ICE in March does not address new, initial status students. As such, we are awaiting additional guidance. As soon as the International Student Office receives this guidance, we will share it.
Although often used interchangeably, your visa and status are two distinct and separate components of your immigration requirements. It is very important to understand the difference between your visa and your status.
An F-1 student visa is a travel document that is placed in your passport at a U.S. consulate or embassy before you enter the United States. The only act to which the visa entitles you to is to seek admittance to the U.S. at a port of entry. Once granted admission to the U.S., you are conferred F-1 status. You may wish to think of your visa as a "key", its only purpose is to open the door to the United States. You will need an unexpired "key" every time you wish to enter in F status. Please note, Canadian students do not require a visa.
Status is the legal category under which you were admitted to the U.S. It refers to the set of rights and responsibilities you have toward the government as a condition of maintaining lawful presence in the United States. The duration of status is based on the program end date listed on your I-20. Once your I-20 completion date has passed, your status in the U.S. has expired and you are no longer in lawful presence.
As with any travel outside of the U.S., you will need an unexpired F1 visa (unless you’re Canadian), your Mercyhurst issued I-20 with unexpired travel signature on page 2 (signatures are valid for 12 months from the signature date for current students and 6 months from the signature date for students on OPT), and a passport with more than 6 months before expiry when you return to the U.S.
Currently, there are many travel restrictions in place. These restrictions tend to change quickly — students should be sure to keep an eye on their individual circumstances and should make the decision to travel based on their own comfort level and timeline. Students should also continue to monitor official advice published by their home government as well as advice published by The U.S. government at on the Study in the States website and the Federal Register website.
As of July 1, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has not announced any changes to its existing OPT application process. Fall 2020 graduates who are physically in the US may begin to apply for OPT in October. The International Student Office will continue to advise students on their OPT applications.
As of July 1, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has not provided any changes to its existing STEM OPT Extension application instructions. Therefore, students must be physically present in the United States to apply for STEM OPT Extension.
Employers may ask their OPT employees to work from home. This will not affect their F-1 status. Students must still report their employment information to ensure they do not accrue days of unemployment in their SEVIS record.
Students who are currently enrolled in the Mercyhurst Student Health Plan have insurance coverage until August when the new enrollment cycle begins. All students, both new and returning, must complete a new health insurance enrollment by the end of July. Please see more information on the Student Health Insurance webpage.
Students with a tax liability for 2019 should continue to make arrangements to file their taxes.
The International Student Office is neither qualified nor permitted to give tax advice. However, in order to support international students we will provide Glacier Tax Prep access codes for students who wish to file their federal taxes remotely. If you are required to file an income tax return for 2019 (not NRA Taxes) you will also need to file a tax return at the state and local level. Students who need more guidance should consult an accountant. In person tax workshops will resume in Spring 2021.
Please remember that filing your taxes and choosing a path to filing is your responsibility and not the responsibility of the International Student Office. Please also remember that any suggestions and resources provided by the International Student Office should not be considered formal tax advice, and highly recommend that you contact a tax professional to assist you with these matters.