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DMV universities suspend study abroad programs in China, South Korea, Italy amid coronavirus outbreak

Local colleges are preparing for coronavirus by canceling study abroad programs, recalling students from overseas and warning about spring break plans.
A statue of John Carroll, founder of Georgetown University, sits before Healy Hall on the school's campus August 15, 2006 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Study abroad programs have become a popular rite of passage for college kids, looking for cultural education and adventure. But the rapid spread of COVID-19 coronavirus in some study abroad destinations has local universities scrambling to rearrange itineraries. 

The 2019 outbreak in Wuhan, China quickly became an international health concern and in the past week, the CDC added more countries to their travel advisory page, including Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea.

As of March 2, Hong Kong is a Level 1 health notice, the CDC does not recommend canceling or postponing travel. 

Japan reached a Level 2 Health notice on February 27, meaning the CDC considers it to be experiencing sustained community transmission, and suggest that older adults and those with chronic medical conditions consider postponing nonessential travel.

As of March 2 the CDC ranks Italy, South Korea, Iran and China as areas with a Level 3 health notice and recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel. The U.S. State Department goes further than that and says "do not travel to China due to novel coronavirus."  

RELATED: Coronavirus impact: DMV schools begin preparations

Universities in Maryland, Virginia and DC are on high alert, dealing with concerned students, parents, and faculty, seeking guidance on upcoming travel.

WUSA9 requested information for several major institutions in the DMV to find out how they are preparing to keep students and professors safe.

Georgetown University says

  • Students studying in China have returned home, none of whom were in Wuhan, Hubei province 
  • They are in contact with students in South Korea and are assisting in making arrangements to return
  • It issued a temporary moratorium on all university-sponsored and university-related travel for students, faculty and staff to China and South Korea
  • They are in contact with Georgetown community members studying at Georgetown University’s Villa Le Balze and are assisting them in making arrangements to travel home.The Villa Le Balze semester program will continue with instructional continuity when the term resumes after the planned Spring Break, on March 9, 2020. This will allow students to complete the remainder of their coursework at their permanent address through remote learning.

George Washington University says:

  • They have suspended study abroad programs in China for spring 2020
  • They also extended travel restrictions for GW-affiliated travel by students to South Korea, Italy and Iran until March 31, a spokesperson confirmed

American University says:

  • They suspended all university-sponsored travel to South Korea and Italy, on February 26 and February 29 respectively.  

University of Maryland says:

  • They are suspending study abroad programs in Italy, China and South Korea for spring 2020
  • They are requesting that students returning from Italy return to their homes away from campus and follow CDC guidelines to self-quarantine for 14 days and seek medical support and advice as needed
  • Students studying abroad in countries with an Alert Level 2 (currently our students in Japan) need to be alert to notices from the Education Abroad office and prepared to return to the U.S. should the alert level for that country increase to Warning Level 3.

Johns Hopkins University says:

  • Classes at their campus in Nanjing, China are convening online. The campus has been closed since the Chinese New Year break. The campus was scheduled to reopen the week of the 20th
  • There are currently 50 students, faculty, staff and scholars who are unable to return from China to Johns Hopkins University's campuses in the United States due to travel restrictions
  • University-led programs in Bologna, Italy remains open at this time with the option for students to participate in classes via broadcast from anywhere in the world, a university spokesperson said
  • Students studying in Italy have either returned to the U.S. or are making travel arrangements to return home, a university spokesperson said
  • They are in close communication with international health officials who are monitoring the virus in other study abroad destinations
  • University classes and activities continue to take place as scheduled, with the exception of those in China for spring 2020

Towson University says:

  • They have suspended all university-sponsored travel to Italy and Japan for the spring semester "out of an abundance of caution." They have also suspended university-sponsored travel to China for spring 2020.
  • They will not be recalling University staff or students who are currently abroad to return
  • Nine students, faculty and staff have been recalled from Italy. They will not be returning to campus and will instead self quarantine, in an "abundance of caution." University-sponsored travel to Italy was suspended as of February 26, 2020
  • No decisions have been made regarding Spring Break, summer, or fall university travel at this time.  

University of Virginia says:

  • They do not have any University-led programs in any country with a level 3 CDC designation or a level 3 or 4 State Department designation. However, in accordance with our policy, the University did advise students studying in programs led by other institutions in Italy to return home when the CDC changed it’s designation in the country, a university spokesperson said
  • UVA strongly advises against traveling to locations with CDC or State Department Level 3 alerts or higher

William and Mary says:

  • They are prohibiting university-sponsored travel to both China and South Korea for spring 2020
  • All university-sponsored faculty, staff and graduate student travel to those countries must be reviewed and approved by the university’s International Travel Review Committee.

Amid global health concerns, institutions are asking students to choose their spring break plans wisely, practice healthy hygiene like covering your cough and monitor the CDC's website should additional travel alerts be issued.

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