(NEW YORK) — At least four U.S. universities have canceled study abroad programs in Florence and urged students to leave Italy amid fears of the coronavirus spreading further in Europe.
Syracuse University, New York University, Fairfield University and Elon University all confirmed in statements their programs have been canceled. NYU is suspending its program until “at least March 29,” while the others have done so indefinitely.
Officials from Syracuse said in a statement their decision came after a case of coronavirus was confirmed on Tuesday and the University of Florence was closed.
“With this in mind, we have made the decision to close the academic program at our Florence campus and assist our students with returning to the United States,” the statement reads. “Concerns for the safety, well-being and free movement of the 342 students in our study abroad program in Florence, Italy, have guided this difficult decision, which was also informed by global health experts.”
Syracuse’s Florence campus will close by Sunday, the same day by which students have been asked to return to the U.S., a spokesperson at the university told ABC News.
Fairfield confirmed it had 142 students enrolled in Florence, Elon said it had 21, plus a faculty member, and NYU said it had about 300.
“We have urged students to leave Florence for this period,” NYU’s statement reads. “Staff from NYU Florence will be available to assist the students in making arrangements as needed until the campus closes.”
John Beckman, a spokesman for the university, told ABC News that the school decided it would be better to take precautionary measures rather than risk students getting quarantined.
“We believed it was far better to temporarily suspend and have our students leave Florence than potentially be caught behind a quarantine, where our efforts to help them would be limited,” Beckman explained.
When asked when the university will decide whether to reopen after March 29, Beckman said he wasn’t sure.
“We can’t say precisely when we’ll be able to make the determination, but we will be mindful of people’s wish to have advanced notice,” he added.
Beckman said NYU is continuing classes online so students won’t fall behind.
According to Beckman, the satellite campus will be closed as of midday Thursday.
A spokesperson for Florida State University said in a statement to ABC News classes at its Florence Study Center have been canceled through the rest of this week but that it’s not closing residences in the city, with students wishing to remain there next week for spring break.
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