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More American universities in Italy close campuses as coronavirus cases increase

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Better safe than sorry, other US schools in Florence, Italy shut down campuses and encourage students to return home. Most stay open.

Days after New York University announced plans to temporarily shutter its campus in Florence, Italy, three additional colleges decided to close their schools. Now, Syracuse University, Elon University, and Fairfield University follow NYU’s decision by taking extra precautions as coronavirus cases in Italy spiked to 400 in less than a week with 12 deaths.

While four schools shut down, others remain open or have modified their schedules. Florida State University said its Florence Study Center cancelled classes for the remainder of the week, but students can stay in it’s residences over spring break. 

On the other hand, Marist College is at full operations. ″As of today, our assessment is that we are comfortable staying open,″ said John Peters, the Dean of International Programs at Marist’s Florence campus.

| Read: NYU closes Italy campus amid concerns of coronavirus crisis |

Firenze’s popularity

Florence at sunset. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore on the background.


Over the years, Florence’s role as being the birthplace of the Renaissance, has made it a popular site for American universities. Over 50 US colleges are housed in the provincial city or have a study abroad program there, from California State University and all of its branches to American University.

For NYU, closing their Italy site marked the third campus as a result of the virus. Before the Spring semester commenced, officials stopped operations at their two China locations in Shanghai and Beijing. To get back on track, the students who are enrolled in Florence will follow the same protocol applied to China’s displaced students by taking courses online.

| Read: Calm Classrooms and radical education activism |

Though some international schools have stopped operations, local academies—from primary schools to universities—remain open. However, local authorities provide daily updates to residents.

While Florence is not quarantined, Bologna, the next major city about a 45 minute drive north, is cordoned off along with Genova and Turin in what is called a ‘red zone.’ Days ago, Italian authorities located who they call ‘patient zero’ this week after a frenzied search where they had to retrace steps in locating the first cases of the virus. Their investigation led to two Chinese tourists on holiday in Rome and an Italian sent back to Rome from Wuhan, China once the epidemic broke out in East Asia. To date, Florence has two reported coronavirus cases. 

Coming to America

Stanford University’s Innovation Lab.


For US universities, handling safety issues around the coronavirus, their challenges actually started on domestic soil. One major concern was how universities would deal with the 368,073 Chinese students attending 165 US universities. As semesters began in January, institutions across the country took extra measures with students studying in China or coming from the area in which the coronavirus emerged. 

Stanford University, along with a number of schools restricted all travel to China for faculty and students. While Duke University closed its campus of 700 students in Jiangsu province and quarantined 40 students, Princeton quarantined 100 students returning from China.

Since universities are the perfect petri dish of communicable diseases, institutions are strengthening their plans to respond to a virus that the CDC says will hit concerning levels in the US soon. Currently, San Francisco and Orange county, two California areas with concentrated populations, have been declared in a state of emergency.

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