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USF asks students to return from coronavirus-affected countries, limits overseas travel options

Nationwide, a growing number of students abroad in Italy, Japan, South Korea, China and Iran have been asked to return to the U.S. to finish classes online while in a 14-day self-quarantine. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

USF students abroad in Florence, Italy, are being asked to return to the U.S. in response to overseas coronavirus outbreaks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a notice last Friday urging Americans to “avoid all non-essential travel” to several countries with confirmed cases of the virus, including Italy.

“Seven USF students are currently studying in a spring program in Florence, Italy,” USF spokesperson Adam Freeman said. “The program has not been canceled, however, students have been asked to return to the U.S. and complete the program online.”

Their return will be met with a state requested 14-day self-quarantine for all students returning from affected countries, during which they can finish their classes online.

On Monday, USF President Steven Currall released a systemwide update on the coronavirus, placing a ban on traveling to high-risk locations. 

“USF prohibits students, faculty and staff travel to [Risk Level 3] destinations,” Currall said.

Italy is listed as a Risk Level 3 destination.

The Office of the President addressed overseas students in the same update. 

“The Florida Board of Governors has asked universities to cancel all university-sponsored travel to China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea,” Currall said in the email addressed to students, staff and faculty.

“All faculty, employees and students who have traveled to these countries are being asked to return home and self-quarantine away from campus for 14 days.”

Two students currently studying abroad in Japan have also been asked to return to the U.S. due to coronavirus outbreaks, according to Freeman.

South Korea, which is scheduled to host four USF students for two separate study abroad programs, has canceled both programs after further spread of the virus was announced, according to Freeman.

While there have been cancellations for the spring semester, no cancellations for the summer semester have been announced.

“USF has not canceled any summer study abroad programs, however, the university continues to monitor the impacts from the coronavirus and will communicate directly with students if there are any changes to a program,” Freeman said.

Currall’s update came a day after two coronavirus cases were confirmed in Hillsborough and Sarasota counties.

The CDC confirmed Monday that two people — a woman in her 20s in Hillsborough County and a man in his 60s in Manatee County — have tested positive for COVID-19, or coronavirus. Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference Monday afternoon addressing the Florida Department of Health’s response to the outbreaks in Florida and a plan of action for containing the outbreak. 

DeSantis produced an executive order declaring a public health emergency under the surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees. The state first learned about the confirmed cases Saturday evening.

The woman was reported to have come back from a trip to northern Italy, according to Tampa International Airport. It is unknown how the male in his 60s came to contract the virus, according to Rivkees.

Rivkees noted the CDC asked Florida universities to keep students abroad in quarantine for at least two weeks upon return.

“Universities, please refer to CDC travel guideline restrictions. If you have students returning from high-outbreak areas, please assist these individuals in self-isolating for 14 days after their return.”

DeSantis made it clear that this is one of the Department of Health’s top priorities.

“Our goal is to contain this.”