COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Flagship universities in Maryland and North Carolina have canceled study abroad programs in Italy and are working to bring students home amid the continuing spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The University of Maryland, along with Towson University in Maryland, suspended study abroad programs in Italy and told students to return home after the Centers for Disease Control raised its coronavirus warning level Friday night to limit travel in that country. At the moment there are nine TU students studying in Italy.
"Towson University is recalling all faculty, staff, and students who are currently abroad in Italy,” said university officials on the school's website.
The decision was made after consulting information and recommendations from the U.S. State Department, the CDC and its international partners.
Towson University students told WMAR 2 News, they’re sympathetic for their classmates abroad but support the university’s decision.
“They’re missing a great opportunity but I think in the long run,” said sophomore Katherine Miller. “It’s a better idea to come back. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
“It’s about safety,” said junior Sianni Ward. “Towson officials have to take every safety precaution that they can.”
The University of Maryland College Park campus has 136 students studying in Italy. Students are being told to return to their homes away from campus and self-quarantine for 14 days.
“It is important to restate that the university is ready and willing to work individually with any student studying in a country with a current Alert Level 2 advisory who is concerned about continuing study abroad; or any student abroad with a chronic health condition or who is immunocompromised,” said Mary Ann Rankin, senior vice president at University of Maryland. “We continue to urge all members of our community at home and abroad to practice measures to prevent infection.”
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also expanded its restrictions on nonessential University-affiliated travel to Italy and canceled spring semester study abroad programs in Italy. The university said travel restrictions are now in place for China, South Korea and Italy.
UNC said it is communicating with affected students studying abroad about their return to the United States and their academic continuation options.
The Associated Press contributed to this article