University of Florida study abroad program cut short over coronavirus concern; quarantine in Gainesville will be voluntary.

A University of Florida study abroad program in Italy was cut short last week amid growing concerns about the spread of coronavirus, so 43 students and faculty members will be quarantined upon their return to Gainesville.


Steve Orlando, UF spokesman, confirmed Monday that the university’s architecture program in the northeast city of Vicenza was shut down last week, and the 41 students and two faculty members are returning to the United States in phases.


No one in the group has shown virus symptoms, which include fever and shortness of breath. The quarantine is voluntary, he said.


The Florida Board of Governors urged anyone returning from China, Italy, Japan or Iran to self-isolate for 14 days.


While some have opted to stay in their homes, UF has also made arrangements for some students to isolate themselves elsewhere in Gainesville because they had not planned on returning to UF before the scheduled end to the program in Italy, Orlando said. Though he would not say where, he said the students or faculty will not be on campus.


The Centers for Disease Control currently suggests travelers avoid nonessential travel to Italy. Italy reported a 50% increase in coronavirus cases Sunday, much of the outbreak centered in northern Italy.


Italy's Civil Protection Authority reported the country now has 1,694 confirmed coronavirus cases, up from 1,128 confirmed cases on Saturday. Thirty-four people have died.


Italy has the most coronavirus cases of any country outside of Asia.


UF is on spring break this week, so many students and faculty are away from campus. Prior to break, UF reminded students who are traveling to wash their hands frequently, and reiterated the CDC’s warning to cancel all nonessential travel to China and South Korea.


Orlando acknowledged families may have concerns about students who are traveling overseas for break, and said the university’s administration is being mindful of updates from the state’s health officials.


“We’re watching it by the hour,” he said.


Monday morning, Governor Ron DeSantis declared a public health emergency in Florida after two COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Tampa.


UF students with concerns they’ve possibly been exposed are asked to call the Student Health Care Center at 352-392-1161, where nursing staff will advise whether an appointment is necessary.


Faculty or staff are asked to contact their healthcare provider.


Officials from Alachua County’s Department of Health chapter have also asked that any individual who believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19 to call the county health department prior to visiting a physician, emergency room, hospital or urgent care center.


In a Monday press release, the DOH of Alachua County said it is imperative that potentially-exposed individuals contact the department first to ensure proper measures are taken to prevent the risk of spreading the virus to others. Call 352-225-4181 during regular business hours, or 352-334-7900 after hours.