A South Korean woman wears a protective face mask in the city of Daegu on February 21. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 26 (UPI) -- A growing number of U.S. colleges and universities are suspending their study abroad programs over concern for the coronavirus outbreak.
Italy has been one of the most affected European nations, with 400 cases and 12 deaths as of Wednesday. The Lombardy region alone has seen nine deaths. To contain the outbreak, the government has banned all sporting matches and public events until Sunday in much of northern Italy and school field trips until March 15.
In the United States, at least five colleges have temporarily suspended their study abroad programs, meaning students in affected countries cannot attend classes. The schools include New York University, which said this week it shut down its Florence, Italy, campus.
"The occurrence of coronavirus cases has climbed steeply in northern Italy," the school said. "In response, the Italian government has been taking swift action to try to prevent its spread.
"While we do not believe there is a pressing health threat to the NYU Florence community, the past month has taught us that countries may swiftly and unexpectedly make decisions that can significantly affect one's ability to travel."
Syracuse University in New York has also scrapped activities at its Florence campus, and is helping nearly 350 students return to the United States.
"We believe this is absolutely necessary to reduce the risk of our students being unable to leave Italy due to Italian containment efforts," the school said.
The schools said, though, the affected students can still attend classes remotely.
Other colleges that have taken similar action include Florida International University in Miami, Fairfield University in Connecticut and Elon University in North Carolina. Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton has expanded its suspension of university-related travel to include trips to China and South Korea. The school has already given "increased caution" warnings for travel to Japan, Iran and Italy.
As for Chinese students in the United States, many won't be allowed to return home during spring break in March. Stanford University, for instance, has restricted all travel to China and Chicago's Northwestern University now requires students planning to visit China, Hong Kong or southeast Asia to report their itineraries to school officials.