The following message was sent to students and parents participating in the Saint John Vianney and Catholic Studies Semester programs in Rome, Italy.
Dear Saint John Vianney/Catholic Studies Semester students and parents,
As you know, the University of St. Thomas has been closely monitoring the spread of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), including the recent rise of confirmed cases in Italy. As the number of cases continues to increase within the country, Italian officials have taken aggressive measures to contain the virus, including nationwide prohibition of school trips, travel restrictions and quarantines in certain municipalities in the northern part of the country.
After careful deliberation, and out of an abundance of caution, the university has made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the Saint John Vianney/Catholic Studies Rome Semester and to close our Bernardi Campus. We strongly encourage all our students in Rome to return to the United States as soon as possible and no later than Friday, March 6 – which is when the Bernardi Campus officially closes. University officials are making arrangements for all of our impacted students to complete their classes from St. Paul to ensure their academic progress is not disrupted.
Please know the decision to close our campus for the semester was not taken lightly. A team of university officials monitoring the COVID-19 situation has been meeting regularly since January, and frequently communicated with Bernardi leaders this week as the situation escalated. We simply cannot predict how COVID-19 will continue to spread throughout Italy, and we believe it is in the best interests of our students to leave Rome before the ability to do so is restricted.
Many of you are understandably disappointed for this program to end early – as are all of us. We are proud of St. Thomas’ study abroad programs and are blessed with unique resources like our Bernardi Campus to offer our students rich experiences. Ultimately, though, we hope you understand this decision was made in the interest of the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff. We want to stress that health risks for our students are low at this time. However, with the virus outbreak still not being fully understood and the potential for rapidly changing travel restrictions, we want to be proactive in bringing students on these programs home.
Thank you for your support during this process. We will be in touch with updates as they are available, and are holding all of you in our prayers.