Students from several different Maine colleges and universities who are studying abroad in Italy will return to the U.S. after a surge in that country’s confirmed cases of coronavirus prompted a Feb. 29 travel advisory from the federal government.
The evacuations will include 14 students from the University of Maine, three students from Bates College and “a small number” from Bowdoin College
In an email to students, University of Maine administrators said the students would be evacuated by March 10. They have been in Italy through three study-abroad programs affiliated with the University of Maine, but the administrators did not say where in the country they have been.
Those study-abroad programs made the decision to close for the semester and evacuate the participating students, said Dan Demeritt, a spokesperson for the University of Maine System.
Demeritt did not directly answer what will happen to those students when they return, but he said that the study-abroad programs are considering allowing the students to receive their credits through online coursework. He also said that the university’s office of international programs has reached out to the families of the 14 students who are in Italy, but did not outline what their travel arrangements will be.
“The university will be working to support all community members who are abroad on university travel and impacted by the spread of the coronavirus,” Demeritt said. “The protocol for anyone returning from Italy will be led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
The administrators also reminded University of Maine students that there have been no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in Maine and that the University of Maine System is working closely with state health officials to respond to the coronavirus.
The university has already prohibited student travel to China and South Korea. No students are in China, and only one faculty member is in the country, Maine Public Radio reported.
There have been only two confirmed cases of coronavirus in New England so far.
On Monday, authorities announced that a hospital worker in New Hampshire tested positive for the infection.
An adult and a teenager from Rhode Island also were recently identified as having the coronavirus after returning from a school trip to Italy, France and Spain, according to The Associated Press and Boston Globe. If those cases are confirmed by federal health officials, they would be just the third and fourth cases of coronavirus in New England.
Over the weekend, Italy joined China and South Korea as the third country to have more than 1,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to the Washington Post.