March 01, 2020
The coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak in Italy has now caused Temple University to shutter its study abroad program in Rome and send its students back home to the U.S. for the remainder of the spring semester.
In a letter penned to students currently enrolled in the program on Saturday, Temple University Rome’s Interim Dean and Acting Director Fay Trachtenberg said the decision was made after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and The State Department advised against all non-essential travel to Italy and raised their travel warnings to a Level 3.
“For you, this means you will need to make arrangements to gather your belongings, leave Italy and return home,” Trachtenberg wrote.
“At this time, we need to know where you are, and how quickly you can return to Rome, so that we can assist you as needed,” she continued. “After you have notified us of your current whereabouts, please contact your airline or travel agent to arrange your return flight home.”
The school said that it will help students find housing on its main campus in Philadelphia if they are interested in returning, and faculty members in the Rome program will start offering online classes on Monday, March 9 so that students can continue with the program. Any students returning to Temple’s main campus are being encouraged to let the school’s Student Health Services know upon arrival.
The school is also advising students to contact the university if they need any help in getting home and to be aware of heightened screening at airports as they travel home.
“I realize many of you had hoped we could continue the spring semester together, but your safety and welfare are our highest priority,” Trachtenberg wrote. “We look forward to hearing from you and helping you on your way home and the completion of your semester.”
Temple’s decision comes just two days after Villanova University informed its students studying abroad in Italy to return home.
Italy, which now has over 1,100 coronavirus cases, has locked down about 50,000 people in 10 northern towns. The outbreak has caused 59 deaths in the country.
There are 15 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, including one patient who did not travel to China recently and had no known contact with any of the other victims. That suggests community spread may be occurring in the United States.
The CDC is shifting from a strategy of containment to one of mitigation, saying it’s only a matter of time before community spread begins.
Another 45 Americans – including passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship and those repatriated from China – also have tested positive for coronavirus. There are currently no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Philadelphia area.
Worldwide, there are nearly 87,000 coronavirus cases, including more than 2,800 deaths. Though China still has the vast majority of coronavirus cases, the disease has begun spreading in other countries.
There is currently no vaccine or any medications to treat the coronavirus. On Saturday, the first known death in the United States due to coronavirus occurred in Washington state. Along with banning non-essential travel to Italy, the Trump administration announced that it will be screening all travelers from the country when they arrive in the U.S.