33 EMU students and two faculty members have returned from a study abroad trip to Italy and are currently self-quarantined in their homes as health officials continue to assess the dangers that the new coronavirus disease poses in the United States.
There were two different study abroad groups, both of which left the United States on Feb. 21, and returned on Sunday, March 1.
Prior to Feb. 21, Italy had only 3 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. That day, however, cases began to explode in the country. By Sunday, March 1, there were 1,694 confirmed cases of the virus in Italy with 34 total deaths reported. As of Friday, March 6, Italy has 4,636 confirmed cases.
Most of the cases in Italy have been clustered in the northern part of the country. Both EMU study abroad groups visited Florence and one group visited Venice, both of which are located in northern Italy. Both groups also visited Rome.
There are currently no confirmed cases of the coronavirus at Eastern Michigan University or in Michigan. EMU Executive Director of Media Relations, Geoff Larcom, said that it’s unclear how many students from the study abroad trip have exhibited symptoms and that he was also unaware of how many of them have been tested for the virus.
According to 7 Action News, at least two students from the trip had reported symptoms but have tested negative for the virus.
When the groups returned on Sunday, March 1, they were told to self-monitor for symptoms, per the CDC’s recommendation, but were allowed back on campus. Days later, the CDC changed its recommendation to self-quarantine for 14 days, and as a result, those involved in the study abroad trip returned to their homes. None of the students or faculty are currently on campus.
University administration has also suspended all University-sponsored travel to any countries with a level three or level four travel restriction placed on it by the U.S. Department of State. All future University-sponsored travel to China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran is currently suspended.
“I’m kind of worried about [the coronavirus],” EMU student Lashon Mays said. “I hope it doesn’t get severe because I will leave [campus].”
Some students have expressed concerns about future study abroad trips.
“I’m trying to study abroad next year in Japan, and I know [the virus] has already hit there, so that’s a little scary,” EMU student Ashley Rodriguez said.
Another EMU student, Kotomi Nagata, said that she lives in Wise Hall and her Residential Advisor had returned from Italy. She had seen the RA earlier this week wearing a mask as a precaution, though any students involved in the study abroad trips are no longer on campus.
When asked about how they think the University is handling concerns about the coronavirus, many students were grateful for the frequent updates the university has provided.
“I’m glad they’re informing us about it, keeping us updated with all of the trips that are cancelled and people going on these trips that are coming back,” Rodriguez said.
EMU students and faculty have been updated by email with updates regarding the risk to students and the community. You can also find all announcements made by the University regarding the coronavirus at emich.edu/uhs/coronavirus/index.php. To see a list of all travel restrictions, see the U.S. Department of State’s website.