US Catholic colleges suspend Italy programs over coronavirus

CNA 5e57674faf87f 183856 1 Pilgrims in St. Peter's Square after the General Audience, Feb. 26, 2020. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Several Catholic colleges and universities with study abroad programs in Italy have ended the semester early and are sending students back to the United States amid the coronavirus outbreak.

One of these schools is The University of Notre Dame, which announced Friday it had canceled the remainder of its Rome Global Gateway program and was flying the 106 students back to the U.S. as soon as possible.

The university also asked students to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, and to receive a doctor's clearance, following their re-entry to the U.S.

Christendom College, based in Front Royal, Va., decided Feb. 29 to suspend its Rome-based study abroad program beginning March 6.

Amanda Graf, director of the school's program in Rome, wrote that the "decision was not made lightly, and it breaks our hearts that the students will not be able to experience the entire Rome semester."

"Ultimately it is our care and concern for the students that motivates us to make this decision."

She said while the students were likely not at a high risk for infection or physical harm, "the safety and quality of life concerns are too great to risk the variables that would come should the city in fact experience a viral outbreak."

Indiana-based St. Mary's College has also suspended its Rome program.

Benedictine College, which has a study abroad program in Florence, last week gave students the choice between staying or returning to the U.S. early. Reportedly 14 of the 52 students decided to leave Italy and continue their courses online, according to

The University of Dallas, whose Italy campus is about 13 miles southeast of Rome, announced March 2 that it would close its Rome program for the semester.

The school had around eight students taking extra precautionary measures after they traveled to Milan, one of the cities in the area most affected by the virus.

According to the university's news website, the students were required to wear masks on campus, eat meals separately, and to sleep in an area apart from the other students.

The March 2 announcement said students would be able to continue the semester's classes via online instruction.

Late last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised the travel warning for Italy to a level three, advising people to avoid non-essential travel to the country due to the spread of Covid-19.

According to Italian health authorities Italy had counted 1,577 cases of the novel coronavirus, mostly in the northern regions of Veneto and Liguria. There have been 13 cases registered in Tuscany, where Florence is located, and six in Rome's region of Lazio.

Nearly 800 of the people with novel coronavirus are being treated at home, while 140 are in intensive care. Thirty-four people have died from the virus in Italy.

Covid-19 is a new strain of coronavirus, which can cause fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. In some cases, it can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure, and severe acute respiratory syndrome.

More in Europe

Novel coronavirus, or Covid-19, originated in the Hubei province of China.

This story was updated March 2 to reflect a closure announcement from the University of Dallas.

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