Spreading coronavirus prompts Fairfield, Sacred Heart universities to bring students home

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Sacred Heart University and Fairfield University have joined a growing list of schools bringing their students home from study abroad programs due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Fairfield University officials made the call Tuesday to suspend its program at Florence University of the Arts and require all 142 students enrolled there to leave the country.

It comes after the coronavirus rapidly spread through northern Italy over the weekend. Italian officials say the number of confirmed cases is up to 374, including 12 deaths.

Fairfield University says the decision is precautionary. It's asking students to return by this Saturday.

"It's obviously a decision we didn't take lightly," says Jennifer Anderson, of Fairfield University. "These learning experiences for them are a really important part of their formation, but a number of factors really went into our decision."

Officials considered the health and safety risks of possible exposure, as well as the potential for government-regulated school closures, travel bans and quarantines. They also say making sure students didn't lose academic credit was a big factor.

With spring break coming up, students will be back on campus when the second half of the semester starts on March 16. They will be able to stay on track for graduation.

Sacred Heart University also canceled its program at John Cabot University in Rome. The 17 students there are being asked to return by Saturday.

A statement from the dean of students says, "They will resume online classes through John Cabot, either from home or from the Fairfield campus, when spring break ends on Monday, March 9."

None of these students coming back from Italy will have to be quarantined unless they show symptoms of the coronavirus.

UConn has 88 students studying in Italy. A spokesperson says school officials are not canceling the programs right now but are closely monitoring the situation.

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