Southern Utah University addresses coronavirus concerns regarding students returning from Italy trip

Nurse wearing respirator mask holding a positive blood test result for the new rapidly spreading COVID-19 virus. Undated photo illustration. | Photo by Samara Heisz/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University has suspended all university-related international travel until further notice after bringing 33 students back to the United States early from a study abroad trip to Italy due to the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

The students returned two weeks ago, and SUU Director of Public Relations David Bishop told Cedar City News that no students or faculty who traveled to Italy were affected by the virus or had to be officially quarantined.

“We did have 33 students and three faculty that were in southern Italy, a part of the country not impacted by the coronavirus, but we ended that study abroad program and brought them home,” Bishop said. “When I say ‘home,’ I mean to their homes — not back to campus.”

According to a press release from SUU, those who traveled to Italy were directed to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding COVID-19, which include staying home, avoiding large groups and self-monitoring for symptoms for 14 days. None of the students are expected to return to the campus for the remainder of the semester.

Bishop also told Cedar City News that the university is following the example of many others in the country and suspending all international university-related travel.

“We have temporarily suspended all international university-related travel until further notice, just out of an abundance of caution,” he said. “The concern is that a group may get to a country and then not be able to get back, or they may be quarantined for 14 days.”

He added that the university is also encouraging students, faculty and staff to reconsider traveling domestically as well.

“Our recommendation is that students and faculty or staff not travel domestically, but that’s their final decision to make,” he said. “We would encourage them not to go to areas that are real hotspots for the coronavirus, but we haven’t banned domestic travel. We’re just highly encouraging people who are going university-funded domestic trips to reconsider their travel arrangements.”

Bishop said whether domestic trips remain on the university’s schedule and are funded by the school is ultimately up to the individual colleges.

The press release added that in addition to the students who have returned from their trip, there are “no known instances among students, faculty or staff on campus of any who are exhibiting signs of illness that would be indicators of COVID-19.” It also stated that the university is also working through its Communicable and Infectious Disease Plan to be prepared “if, and when, the virus emerges in Cedar City.”

The press release also quelled concerns regarding international students on campus. University officials said the following:

SUU’s international students arrived on campus before the emergence of the coronavirus. Any international students who traveled during the holiday break have been back on campus since early January (for more than two months) and have long since passed the 14-day time period when symptoms could arise. It is also well-known that the popularity and frequency of global travel mean that people of all nationalities and residencies could be carriers of the virus, which can be picked up through both international and domestic travel or exposure. SUU encourages respect, civility, and kindness toward all in our community.

The university has also posted a campus health notice regarding the virus, which provides information about the virus and guidelines for addressing possible symptoms. The notice can be found online here.

Additionally, the state of Utah, through the Utah Department of Health, announced over the weekend that they  have set up a website and hotline to provide information on the COVID-19 coronavirus as well as a hotline for those who suspect they may have the virus.

The website, at, provides up-to-the minute information on the spread of the virus in the state as well as educational information on how to prevent getting the virus and how to deal with it if you are infected. It also includes information for health care providers.

A free phone hotline, 800-456-7707, has also been set up for anyone who is worried they may have the COVID-19 virus or exhibiting symptoms.

Health care providers evaluating a patient for suspected COVID-19 coronavirus infection are asked to contact the Utah Department of Health immediately at 888-EPI-UTAH (374-8824).

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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