Loyola students studying abroad in Rome being brought back to Chicago because of coronavirus

Loyola University Chicago students who are studying abroad in Rome are having their stays cut short as concerns grow about the coronavirus and its spread through Europe.

The university will send students home from its John Felice Rome Center by Wednesday, March 4, school officials announced Saturday.

All students will have to stay at home for a 14-day observation period, under guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This decision coincides and aligns with a number of other U.S. universities and partner schools with programs in Rome,” the statement said.

The university is deferring midterms for returning students and is expected to help offset additional travel costs, officials said.

Loyola University had previously placed a moratorium on school-sponsored travel to China.

Italian authorities on Saturday reported more than 1,100 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the country, including eight additional deaths since the outbreak was identified, bringing the toll to 29.

The first U.S. death attributed to the virus was confirmed Saturday in Washington state. In Illinois, two people have been treated for coronavirus.

Loyola isn’t the only Chicago school taking measures in response to the outbreak.

DePaul University has canceled future study abroad programs including a spring break trip to Japan and a summer trip to China, according to its website.

The University of Illinois at Chicago suspended all summer 2020 programs in China and Spring 2020 programs in Korea.

Read the full notification from Loyola officials on the decision to return students from Rome:

Dear Students, Parents, Faculty and Staff in Loyola’s John Felice Rome Center (JFRC),

With our students’ wellbeing at the forefront of our decision-making and the newest directive from the U.S. government, Loyola University Chicago has decided to repatriate students studying in Italy at the JFRC and is asking all JFRC and partner school students to return home by Wednesday, March 4. This decision coincides and aligns with a number of other U.S. universities and partner schools with programs in Rome.

Based on evolving U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, students re-entering the U.S. are required to stay in place at home for a 14-day observation period. In the event that any symptoms are noticed, students should seek immediate medical attention.

The reason for our decision has been influenced in part by the recent travel advisory changes made by the U.S. Department of State and the CDC. Both agencies raised their travel advisory levels for Italy to Level 3 (Non-Essential Travel) out of concern for Coronavirus (COVID-19) in that country.

As a result of this change in advisory status, we are immediately working with the three major travel providers with whom the majority of our students have booked their travel (Heritage Travel, CISI, and GeoBlue) to begin booking flights back home to the U.S. An email with more details and contact information is forthcoming.

Loyola University Chicago will help defray the costs of additional fees and incidentals not covered in your students’ existing travel itineraries and will address individual economic hardship cases and travel booking agent arrangements. We will also be following up with additional information on how we will accomplish this travel movement.

Given the significance of these transitions and to alleviate additional stress on our students, we are deferring mid-term examinations which we originally scheduled for the week of March 2. We are creating alternative and on-line academic programming which we expect to resume the week of March 16. Our plans call for available student housing in Chicago after students have completed CDC requirements. Other details about plans to ensure academic integrity and student success will be shared with you shortly.

We appreciate your continued support and understanding during this evolving global health situation and we will share with you updates as they become available. Rest assured, all questions and topics will be addressed appropriately and in a timely fashion.

We are saddened and share your disappointment around this decision. While we realize that there will be a disruption in our students’ academic semester, we are making plans to create a positive alternative learning experience. Our concern for each other and our response as a Loyola community will continue to contribute to our resilience, learning and fortitude as global citizens.

This is a very fluid situation. We will do our best to keep everyone updated in the event that there are additional changes.

Warm regards,

Dr. Michael F. Andrews

Director, Loyola Rome Center