Shawn Olstein ’22
In response to the CDC’s increased travel advisory warning, Trinity College has suspended its Rome study abroad program. Trinity students returning from areas classified as having a level 3 travel warning are not permitted to return to campus, as the college is incapable of ensuring proper quarantine of any individuals who may pose a health risk.
On Feb. 28, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) upgraded the travel warning for visitors to Italy from a level 2 to a level 3 as a part of the continuous spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus, in Italy. A level 2 alert calls for the practice of enhanced precaution when traveling, and a level 3 warning recommends avoiding all non-essential travel.
In an email to students, Director of Health Services Martha O’Brien stated, “as a matter of course, we will suspend any Trinity-sponsored programs when the CDC elevates its travel advisory to Warning Level 3 for a particular area.” Ms. O’Brien’s comment did not rule out future study abroad program shutdowns in other regions that may be impacted by the virus.
Trinity College’s study abroad programs in China were suspended before the spring semester started due to concerns about the coronavirus. The Tripod has also heard from several students that Trinity’s Paris program has been partially impacted, with several students in quarantine following a trip to Italy. However, the Tripod has been unable to verify the status of these students with the college. With spring break travel approaching, it remains unclear how Trinity will seek to limit exposure if students elect to travel internationally.
Trinity’s Rome program was hosting 21 Trinity students this semester and was also preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary in March. The celebration has been suspended by the college and will likely be rescheduled to the fall. The college has decided to evaluate and advise each student in the Rome program on their academic needs individually. Furthermore, the college has contacted all students currently studying at its European sites (Barcelona, Paris, and Vienna) and offered these students the option of leaving their programs and returning home if they wish. Trinity will evaluate the feasibility of
summer study away programs, including those planned for Rome and Montolieu, France, in the coming weeks. The Office of Study Away has extended the application deadlines for the summer Study Away programs until early April and will provide further guidance before the April deadline.
With the suspension of Trinity’s Rome program and the spread of the coronavirus, students abroad are facing tough choices regarding their health and safety. Oliva Zeiner-Morrish ’22, currently studying in Barcelona, told the Tripod that “I’m not really worried right now. I don’t plan on returning home unless I am required to do so. That being said, it is kind of unnerving to be in an unfamiliar environment as coronavirus spreads. One of the reasons I chose to study in Europe was so that I could travel to other countries during my time abroad, but now I’m not sure if that is going to be possible. A lot of other students are really rattled. Everyone is asking a lot of questions about what might happen if coronavirus spreads to Spain. I think the uncertainty is the worst part.”
Trinity strongly advises students who are traveling to CDC travel alert countries with level 2 status (Japan) to reconsider their spring break plans. The college further advises students not to travel to CDC travel alert countries with level 3 status (China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea), as students returning from these countries will likely be subject to a 14-day quarantine. Any student returning from a country with warning level 2 status should not return to campus if they have had a fever or respiratory symptoms five days before their expected return date, according to O’Brien’s community email.
Trinity is not the only school in Connecticut to close its study away programs in Italy. UConn also cancelled their Italian programs and recalled 88 students presently studying abroad this past weekend. Those students will be allowed to return after a “14-day self-quarantine period,” according to WTNH. Fairfield University also closed its Florence University of the Arts program, which will bring 142 students back to their campus no sooner than Mar. 14.
Yale University has recalled students in its study abroad programs in Italy and South Korea and requires students returning from impacted regions to register with the institution and engage in self-quarantine practices. Yale New Haven Health will be in communication with impacted students to monitor their conditions. Wesleyan University has not advised on their campus in Bologna, Italy, though Wesleyan has been working with students studying in South Korea to engage them in alternative programs as of Wednesday.
In Hartford, Trinity College’s Emergency Management Team has been in coordination with colleagues on campus, as well as neighboring institutions, to monitor the evolving situation surrounding the coronavirus. O’Brien asserted that “while there is no threat to the Trinity campus at this time, we certainly are seeing the impact of the spread of the virus internationally, and we know that members of the community are looking for guidance on many topics, including travel plans for spring break and summer.” Trinity’s coronavirus response group continues to meet regularly to evaluate the short-term and long-term impacts of the coronavirus on the Trinity community.
Vice President for Communications Angela Schaeffer told the Tripod that “this is a rapidly evolving global public health concern, and Trinity is coordinating at all levels across the institution, as well as with public health officials and others externally to keep our community informed and safe, and to limit the impact of the outbreak on our community.”