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Gonzaga University suspends study abroad program in Italy amid coronavirus outbreak

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SPOKANE, Wash. -- Gonzaga University has suspended all classes at its campus in Florence, Italy, effective immediately.

The suspension is in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that has killed 11 people and infected at least 322 people in Italy.

The boarding houses and homestays that house the Gonzaga Florence students will be closed on March 6 for the remainder of the spring semester. Students there need to make immediate plans to travel back home.

There are no cases of coronavirus in the Spokane area. There has been one confirmed case of the virus in Washington state, a Snohomish County man who was the first person in the United States to be diagnosed after returning from the Wuhan region of China where the virus originated. He has fully recovered.

Doctors from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that the United States should prepare for the likely spread of the virus here at home. At least 59 Americans have been diagnosed with coronavirus, with 40 of those being infected on a cruise ship that docked in Japan.

Worldwide, there are 81,191 cases of the novel coronavirus, according to a dashboard created by the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering. That number includes 30,281 cases in which people recovered from COVID-19.

Gonzaga joins a growing list of universities that are canceling or altering study abroad programs amid the global outbreak. Here's a list of others:

Elon University

Elon University announced that it has suspended its program in Florence, Italy, for the semester.

The North Carolina university said 21 Elon students and one faculty member will return home from Italy this week and its Italian academic partners will ensure the students are able to complete all coursework remotely.

"Given the uncertainty about the spread of the virus and its anticipated impact on travel and our academic program in Florence, we decided it was best to bring these students home as soon as possible," Dean Pelton said.

Fairfield University

Fairfield University announced yesterday that it has immediately closed its Florence University of the Arts study abroad program and required all students enrolled in the program to depart Italy.

"The University is working through the logistics of allowing these students to return to Fairfield University's campus on March 15, after our spring break, and resume classes on campus," the Connecticut school said in a news release. "Students will have the option of both online and hybrid courses to ensure they remain on track toward their graduation dates."

The university said 142 students are enrolled in the program.

Florida International University

Florida International University announced Tuesday that study abroad programs to Italy, Singapore, Japan and South Korea have been canceled.

The university said any students or employees who are currently on university business in those countries must return to the US immediately.

New York University

New York University announced earlier this week that it has canceled classes for the rest of the week at NYU Florence.

The university said it suspended operations at the campus on Thursday, February 27, and it will begin holding classes remotely starting on March 2.

The university has urged students to leave Florence during this period.

Syracuse University

And Syracuse University announced that it has suspended its program in Florence and is working to assist its students with returning to the US.

"We are working directly with our students to arrange their return to the United States. We will do everything we can to minimize disruption to their academic studies and their lives," the university said in a news release. "Many will choose to return to main campus. However, they will not return until after spring break."

The New York university said at least 342 students are studying abroad in Italy.

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