Italy Coronavirus Outbreak Prompts Sioux City College To Bring 12 Students Home

Mar 2, 2020

A Sioux City college is recalling a dozen students home from a study abroad program in Italy because of the new coronavirus epidemic in that country.

Morningside College decided to bring back the 12 students studying abroad in Sicily after the U.S. State Department issued an advisory Saturday urging people to reconsider traveling to Italy. The college has already booked flights home for the students.

Alden Stout, the college’s associate vice president of academic affairs, said the school reacted to the travel advisory “out of an abundance of concern.” 

“We do value safety really highly of our students,” Stout said. “If there’s something we’re going to prioritize, we’re going to prioritize their safety.”

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people avoid “all nonessential travel to Italy" because of the rapidly-spreading COVID-19, a respiratory illness.

Morningside students in Italy will return on or before March 13 and will finish their coursework online. There is “no evidence to believe that any of the students have symptoms of the virus,” Stout said.

“The students will be – just like all passengers, as we understand, who leave Italy – are going to have a screening and they’ll be screened by United States Customs [and Border Protection]. So they’ll follow that protocol as well,” Stout said.

A memo sent to the campus community over the weekend read, “Students are aware that there may be a chance they will be asked to quarantine or self-quarantine upon their return and have been asked to prepare accordingly (have personal items, acquire at least a three-week supply of necessary medications, etc.).”

Stout said since the CDC hasn't authorized or recommended a quarantine for travelers returning to the U.S. from Italy, the college won't do one either. The college is working with the Iowa Department of Public Health and a local health department to see what they recommend, and will follow their guidelines. 

Two faculty members are abroad with the students. One is returning home. The second is living in Italy on a Fulbright Scholar award and is staying, Stout said.

The respiratory illness has rapidly spread through Italy, so far infecting more than 2,000 people and killing more than 50. There are no confirmed coronavirus cases in Iowa, but the state’s department of public health is monitoring five people who have recently returned home from China, where the virus originated.