Read the Editorial: Don’t freak out, be cautious
One Bradley study abroad student in South Korea is on her way home after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus (COVID-19) warning canceled her program. Programs in Italy are also offering students the option to return and complete their classes at home.
Junior theater arts major Karlee Frewert was studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea when the CDC declared a Level 3 warning on Feb. 24, the highest possible, which effectively shut her program down Wednesday.
Frewert is expected to arrive back in the United States tomorrow.
Bradley currently has 36 students abroad at 21 different sites. As of Thursday afternoon, there are no Bradley students under quarantine, according to Nathan Thomas, vice president for student affairs.
“We are monitoring the students that are studying abroad and keeping an eye on the CDC for the time being,” said Jessica Higgs, director of Bradley’s Health Services.
Frewert said that despite the situation, she feels relatively safe.
“I haven’t heard about what procedures will be taken upon my arrival, but I expect I will have to self-quarantine at home and report if I show any symptoms,” Frewert said.
Thomas explains that study abroad programs are usually in partnership with institutions or agencies around the world. While Bradley is in close communication with all partner schools, the university will also follow the U.S. government’s guidelines on the situation.
“When students study abroad, they do it through a different school, a different agency that really is in control of the program,” Thomas said. “So those groups are the ones that are on the ground making decisions.”
Meanwhile, eight students studying in Italy are concerned after the CDC upgraded their location to a Level 2 on Feb. 23, meaning there is a sustained community spread. According to the CDC website, this means “that people have been infected with the virus, but how or where they became infected is not known, and the spread is ongoing.”
While the Italy programs haven’t been canceled, programs are giving students the option to leave before March 1 and finish their classes online, according to an email sent to a student by SAI, the program in Florence.
“This is new territory for everyone,” administrative coordinator for Study Abroad Kathleen Stinson said. “We’ve had bird flu, swine flu before, but never to this level.”
Sophomore art major Sabryna Voss is studying in Florence and said she has decided to fly back to the United States before the situation gets worse.
“It’s either stay here and be a sitting duck waiting to know if the CDC will send us home or keep us in quarantine or go home and possibly regret leaving,” Voss said. “In the end, me and my family decided that if or when this turns into a worldwide pandemic, we want to be together in the U.S.”
Other students in Italy have mixed feelings about leaving.
Sophomore nursing major Jenna Carnazzola is also studying in Florence, and said she’s not considering going back right now.
“I just don’t feel uneasy about the situation,” Carnazzola said.
According to the university’s study abroad office, Bradley students are currently studying in Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, South Africa, Germany, England, Ireland and the Netherlands.
Even students studying in countries without CDC warnings are affected by the outbreak.
Junior international business major Jarad Presley had to pick a new program, when his study abroad location was changed from Shanghai, China to Auckland, New Zealand before he left the United States.
Others have had to cancel upcoming trips planned through their programs.
“My program has encouraged us to cancel plans to Italy but aren’t requiring anything at the moment,” junior management and leadership major Alice Lawson who is studying in Scandinavia, said. “I am supposed to go in a few weeks, but I have a feeling I won’t be allowed to.”
Being in Europe, Lawson is worried about the situation escalating.
“It’s really surreal being here while it’s all going on,” Lawson said. “The thought of quarantine or getting sent home is really scary, plus it would be so frustrating to miss out on the semester.”
At the time of publishing, there are 14 confirmed cases in the United States, and 12 are travel-related, according to the CDC. According to Illinois Department of Public Health statistics, two of these cases are contained in the Chicago area.
Higgs said health services is following the procedure set by the CDC, which includes reaching out to students who may have traveled, or were in contact with someone who has traveled to a country of concern in the last 14 days.
“It is not just spreading in the United States right now,” Higgs said. “It’s not just out there … at the moment.”
The CDC is recommending the public avoid traveling to areas of concern and to take preventative measures like washing hands and avoiding contact with sick individuals.