Dozens of students at the University of Dallas campus in Rome, Italy, are in quarantine after an outbreak of COVID-19, according to the university.
Since last week, 61 members of the university’s Rome campus, including at least 52 students, have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a letter to students and parents from Peter Hatlie, dean and director of the Rome programs. There are 78 students in the study abroad program.
So far only a few of the students are experiencing symptoms, which are mild, he said in the letter, dated Monday.
In the letter, Hatlie provided a detailed description of the campus’ actions before and since the outbreak.
Students arrived at the Rome campus Sept. 13, and all tested negative for the virus five days later. By Sept. 27, after completing the 14-day self-isolation required of all new travelers arriving in Italy, students were free to leave campus, shop at local markets and travel. Classes met at St. Peter’s Basilica and the Basilica of St. Mary Major.
The group then traveled to southern Italy and Sicily, where students toured museums and spent time on the beach and in the mountains before returning home on a boat.
On Oct. 10, during the boat ride home, the first student came forward describing a “loss of smell and/or taste” but had no fever, Hatlie wrote. The next day, five more reported symptoms.
Those six students were tested for COVID-19 on Oct. 12, with three testing positive and three negative. The three students who tested positive for the virus “were immediately put into self-isolation from the rest of the community, likewise for their roommates,” according to Hatlie’s letter.
All of the students in the program and 10 campus staff members were subsequently tested on Sunday, Oct. 18, with dozens testing positive for COVID-19.
Italian health authorities have required the campus to isolate those who tested positive for COVID-19 from the others and place all students, even those with negative results, under quarantine pending further testing, Hatlie said.
Students will attend online classes for the next 10 days, and the campus has suspended in-person religious services, according to the letter. Meals will be delivered to dormitory rooms, and students will be allowed outdoor recreational time, with alternating access for students who have tested positive and those who have tested negative. Masks are required both indoors and outdoors.
“Rest assured that we will do everything in our power — in cooperation with local health officials — to contain any further spread of COVID-19 on campus, to monitor the health of and find medical support as necessary for infected individuals, and to emerge from this crisis as soon as possible,” Hatlie wrote in the letter.