UA students studying abroad in countries with high risk for contracting the novel coronavirus COVID-19 must return to the U.S. immediately, according to a mass email Provost Jim Coleman sent Tuesday.
Registered student travelers in countries with a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention risk level of two or higher must return home. All upcoming study abroad trips to high-risk countries have been suspended or postponed, and university officials are considering whether to postpone or cancel all upcoming international student travel, according to the email.
An alert level of two indicates that travelers should practice enhanced precautions, while a level three indicates that all non-essential travel to the country should be avoided, according to the CDC.
As of Feb. 28, there were 150 UA students studying abroad, according to a university press release. As of 12:15 a.m. March 4, the UA Office of Study Abroad’s coronavirus webpage, intended to help students and parents stay updated on the pandemic, is down.
Lizzy Lankford, a sophomore, was studying abroad at the UA Rome Center when she received an email from the U.S. Embassy on Feb. 28 stating that Italy’s COVID-19 risk level had been increased from two to three – one level below the pandemic’s epicenter in China.
Chancellor Joe Steinmetz announced in an email later that day that the center would suspend all operations for the spring semester, and the center’s 40 UA students and 60 other students should return home immediately.
The level of alarm in the Rome study abroad program escalated quickly as coronavirus cases multiplied across Italy, Lankford said.
“Earlier in the week, on Monday, they were telling us it wasn’t really a big deal and that we would still be able to travel,” Lankford said. “Then on Thursday they were like, ‘Okay, maybe think about changing your spring break plans,’” Lankford said, “Then Friday we were told we needed to come home.”
Italy has the third highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, with 2,502 confirmed cases and 79 deaths.
Lankford, who arrived in Fayetteville on Monday, has been placed under self-quarantine, requiring her to stay at least six feet away from anyone and report her temperature to the Arkansas Department of Health twice daily. The conditions of Lankford’s quarantine are restrictive, she said.
“I’m not allowed to have visitors over,” Lankford said. “I can’t leave my room for really any reason unless I want to get food. I’m not allowed to leave the house unless I’m seeking medical attention. If I want to leave my room I have to wear a mask.”
The ADH has asked all Rome Center students to self-quarantine in their homes for two weeks after arriving back in the U.S.
Coleman is urging students to reconsider their spring break trip plans if they are planning to travel to a country with a high coronavirus risk, according to the email.
This is an ongoing report. The Arkansas Traveler will update this story as information is made available.
Note: Lizzy Lankford is a former staff reporter for The Arkansas Traveler and has worked for UATV, the UofA’s student television news organization.