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Feb. 28 Update: Impact of coronavirus on study abroad

The following message was sent Feb. 28 to all UW-Eau Claire and UW-Eau Claire – Barron County students, faculty and staff:

The impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus on U.S. study abroad programs has been in the news, in particular programs in South Korea and Italy. We would like to make you aware of the actions we are taking related to our students abroad.

South Korea

UW-Eau Claire made the difficult decision to cancel study abroad in South Korea for spring 2020 as the Centers for Disease Control issued a “Warning-Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel” and the U.S. Department of State raised the travel advisory to “Level 3: Reconsider Travel.” Our four students already in South Korea have been asked to return to the United States, and we will be tracking each student’s departure and arrival to ensure they arrive safely. One student scheduled to leave for Korea next week has been notified to stay in the U.S. The staffs of the Center for International Education; Advising, Retention and Career Center; Blugold Central; and ASK Center along with colleges and departments are working with students to support their transition back to the United States.

Italy

Although some institutions have canceled programs in Italy, Istituto Lorenzo de' Medici (LdM), UW-Eau Claire’s partner institution, remains open as do many other study abroad programs in Italy. Twelve UW-Eau Claire students are studying in Italy this spring: 11 in Florence and one in Tuscania.

As of Feb. 26, LdM reported that there are no ordinances from the Italian government to cease operation. The U.S. Department of State issued a new travel advisory for Italy on Feb. 26 that includes mention of the novel coronavirus, and the advisory level remains “Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution.” Please note that Italy was under a level 2 advisory when students traveled there for the start of the spring 2020 semester. The CDC alert level for Italy was raised to Level 2 on Monday, due to coronavirus. However, the CDC did specifically note that the special precautions are for older adults and those with chronic medical conditions.

Future program cancellations

In follow-up to questions we have received about whether additional study abroad programs will be canceled, we would like to share with the campus community how these decisions are made.

UW-Eau Claire considers the U.S. Department of State travel advisories and the Centers for Disease Control travel warnings when reviewing program safety. Only a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” U.S. State Department travel advisory would result in an automatic cancellation. A Level 3 warning from the CDC and Level 3 advisory from the U.S. Department of State would prompt review by the UW-Eau Claire Travel Risk Committee, which includes the UW-Eau Claire risk manager, faculty and staff with study abroad expertise, and staff from the Student Health Service. A recommendation to bring students home would require the approval of Academic Affairs.

Looking ahead

In light of the unpredictability of the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, UW-Eau Claire continues to monitor travel alerts and advisories and follow the advisement of local, regional and national public health experts. We ask that the campus community be mindful and supportive of our students, faculty and staff who have personal connections to the many areas of the world affected by the outbreak.