RWU students in Italy to come home: Coronavirus causes suspension of abroad classes in Florence

Students abroad in Florence will be returning to the United States after classes there were suspended for the semester, due to an outbreak of COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, in Northern Italy. 

The International Studies Institute (ISI) of Florence, which runs the program in that city, informed students of the need for departure via email on Feb. 29. The organization cited the U.S State Department raising the travel advisory for Italy to level three, which means there is a serious risk to safety and security in that country. ISI Florence said it was also “informed by [its] US university partners to end the current semester’s programs.”  

“When the government declared that the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens are at risk, that decision determined that we would need to take the next step and cease operations,” said Kevin Hayden, director of study abroad programs at the university. “This requires students to return back to the U.S. as soon as possible.”

Hayden said classes will resume online on March 16, so students will still be able to finish the semester and not lose out on credits. 

“We are working with all students individually to ensure their arrangements are worked out and they are safely coming back to the U.S.,” Hayden said. “These are extraordinary conditions we find ourselves in and are working to assist students in any way necessary.” 

Hayden anticipates the students will have to undergo additional medical screening once they get back to the U.S. He also said the university will ask them to stay home for two weeks “out of an abundance of caution.”   

The RWU Emergency Response Team sent out an email on March 1 informing the rest of campus of the situation in Florence. They also recommended that members of the RWU community avoid international travel this upcoming spring break. 

COVID-19 has infected over 80,000 people worldwide and killed over 3,000. The United States has 72 confirmed cases, according to John Hopkins University. A “presumptive positive” case was confirmed by the Rhode Island Department of Health today, however they stress that the risk remains low for Rhode Islanders.