South Florida universities cancel study abroad programs in anticipation of coronavirus spread

WEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Increased concern about the coronavirus is spreading across America, and at least one South Florida university is taking precautions.

As concerns over the coronavirus grow, administrators at Florida International University are not taking any chances. This week, the university announced major restrictions and cancellations for study abroad programs.

“I’m sure they’re kind of shocked,” said FIU student Rodoigo Chinchon. “They should be upset with reason, but, you know, it’s just one of those things that are out of our circumstances.”

Last month, FIU announced it was cancelling the study abroad programs for seven students who were in China this semester. The university also brought home four faculty members.

As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention braces for the possibility of a global pandemic and the potential spread of the deadly virus in the U.S., FIU is going a step further with new restrictions.

“Given the nature of this virus and how unpredictable it’s been, we are being very cautious,” said vice president of FIU’s regional and world locations Dr. Pablo Ortiz.

Administrators announced that in addition to China, all travel to Italy, Singapore, Japan and South Korea is restricted effective immediately.

All study abroad trips scheduled to those countries for the upcoming spring semester have been cancelled, and all students and employees currently in those countries on school business must return to the U.S. immediately.

The university is also requesting a 14-day at-home quarantine for students and employees who have recently traveled to China, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Italy. This is also to include those that have been in contact with anyone who has traveled to these countries.

FIU said they will step up to keep costs down for those affected by the last minute changes.

“The university is working very closely with vendors, as well as preparing our resources to support our students and faculty, to ensure that they are not incurring any of the costs associated with having to change their travel,” said Ortiz.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho took to Twitter to address the virus.

In a memo distributed by Kenneth G. Furton, FIU provost and executive vice president, said, “Out of an abundance of caution and our responsibility for duty of care, we primarily want to protect our students’ and employees’ well-being. At the same time, with the risk of the virus outbreak still not being fully understood, we want to be proactive in calling our students and employees home.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez also announced a major meeting to address the virus to be held Thursday. Here, all school and emergency officials will gather to prepare and plan.

As for the future of the university’s summer abroad programs, their plans remain unknown.

FIU told each college to review the scheduled programs and figure out if it makes more sense to cancel.

A representative from Nova Southeastern University also said all NSU-related travel to China has been canceled.

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