About a week after Loyola sent home students at its John Felice Rome Center (JFRC) due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the university updated students on their preparation efforts as the coronavirus outbreak escalates in Chicago.
Illinois currently has 19 cases as of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, as of Mar. 10, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has declared a “disaster proclamation,” for the state, The Phoenix reported.
While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Loyola, a student was exposed to someone who is being tested for the respiratory disease, a March 10 email to the Loyola community said.
“Out of an abundance of caution and in alignment with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), the student is in isolation on campus and is well,” the email sent by Loyola’s Wellness Center.
The Loyola Wellness Center is following protocol to isolate students as they await test results, the email said.
Online Classes a Possibility
The university is encouraging faculty to move their courses online, and is preparing for the possibility of making online classes mandatory, according to an email from Jo Ann Rooney sent to students. Additionally, the university says JFRC will remain closed for the summer, according to the email.
“Given these rapidly evolving developments, Loyola’s COVID-19 task force continues with its preparedness plans, including the possibility of moving all classes from face-to-face instruction to online instruction,” Rooney wrote in the email.
Loyola’s Director of Communications Anna Rozenich said the COVID-19 task force is relying on information from federal, state and local health officials to determine an appropriate response — including switching to an online format for classes.
Just a few minutes after Rooney’s email update, Loyola’s history department sent out an email to students enrolled in history courses that included a survey to gather information about students’ access to resources in case of a mandatory online transition.
Returning JFRC Students in Self Quarantine
The COVID-19 outbreak has heavily affected Italy as well with 8,514 active cases, 631 deaths and 1,004 recovered patients, according to the Italian Ministry of Health website.
JFRC students were notified on Feb. 29 they were required to return home by Mar. 4 as the virus spread throughout Italy — around two months before their planned return to the U.S.. Students returning were advised to follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) policy and self-quarantine for 14 days and check their temperature twice a day, the email said.
Some Loyola students studying at the JFRC said the university’s decision to pull them out was the right decision.
“As much as [leaving] absolutely sucks … I’d much rather have them get us all out now,” said Maya Williams, a 20-year-old sophomore studying international business and French at the JFRC. “The university made the right call to get us all home before it got worse.”
JFRC students will be completing the rest of their semesters online. Loyola gave them the option of either living at home while they complete their coursework, or return to residence halls on either the Lake Shore or Water Tower campus.
Students who decide to return will already have their housing costs covered by what they paid for their semester in Rome, according to Rozenich. Loyola says they’ll reimburse students who decide to stay at home a percent of what they paid for housing in Rome.
“Specifics will vary from student to student, and so the University will work with each student individually in the coming days to determine the prorated amount for each,” Rozenich said.
Loyola sophomore Olivia Simon, who was in Rome, plans on coming back to campus to complete her classes online once her quarantine period is up. Whichever residence hall she ends up being placed in, the university told her housing costs for housing and a 7-day meal plan would be covered by what she already paid for in Rome.
Other students, such as Loyola sophomores Mckenzie Cronin and Lauren Manini said they’ll be staying home and saving their money from the housing refund.
Manini, 20, said she isn’t looking forward to completing her classes online.
“I understand why they’re doing it, but personally I’m not very happy about it,” Manini, who is studying advertising and public relations, said. “I don’t think I am going to do very well doing online classes. I just never would have chosen myself to take online classes, and I feel like it’s going to be a lot harder for me to.”
Cronin, who is studying marketing and theology, is spending her quarantine period at her family’s lake house in Indiana and will also complete her classes from home. She said she feels confident she didn’t catch the virus but is taking the precautions recommended by the university.
“I’m scared people will be scared to go near me, and I did nothing wrong,” Cronin, 20, said. “It just stinks that this is happening to us.”
Students Studying in China Frustrated by University Response
JFRC students weren’t the only students who had their abroad experiences cut short by COVID-19. Students studying at partner programs in China were sent home at the end of January — while the programs have partnerships with Loyola, they are not directly run by Loyola. China currently has 80,924 confirmed cases.
An OIP advisor and Rozenich didn’t give information to The Phoenix about the students studying in China. But students said they were frustrated with how OIP handled their evacuation.
Loyola sophomores Rosa Carter and Raimi Woodruff and Loyola junior Grace Johnson were sent home from their study abroad programs in Shanghai and Chengdu, China — but all three of them chose different paths for the rest of their semesters after they said Loyola’s Office of International Programs (OIP) didn’t have a set plan for their return.
Johnson said she had to “plead her case” with the university to return to classes on campus for the rest of the semester, but with the help of business school administrations made a plan to come back.
“100 percent it was basically just me, by myself, trying to figure out what to do, working with [Loyola], if I could come back to school.” Johnson said. “I didn’t even consider studying abroad again because I felt very defeated.”
Johnson, 21, said because her program wasn’t run by Loyola, she didn’t feel as though they had a set plan for her return — or even would have been aware of her situation if she hadn’t reached out.
“Because I took that extra step, they were willing to help,” Johnson said.
Woodruff, 20, hoped to enroll in another language school or abroad program in Taiwan, but she said the OIP was hesitant about placing her in a new program due to the uncertainty of the virus’ spread at the time — she ended up coordinating with her Chinese professor to complete an independent study in Taiwan for credit.
Carter decided to take the semester off at home in Seattle. She said she felt like the move back to Loyola would be too difficult, and didn’t feel as though Loyola presented her with a plan for an easy transition.
“Basically what [the university] left me with was ‘talk to the dean of your school and your advisor and see what your options are,’” Carter said. “Instead of what they are doing for Rome, how they’re trying their best to integrate students back there.
JFRC Future Programming Up in The Air
In another email sent from the Office of the President, all summer programming at the JFRC has been canceled and Fall 2020 classes at the JFRC are contingent on the situation in Italy.
Loyola expects the CDC to lower the travel advisory on Italy in the next few weeks — which is currently at a level three, meaning people should avoid unnecessary travel — so students are still advised to obtain the necessary documentation to study abroad in Italy, the email said.
Should the JFRC remain closed, students will be registered for fall classes in Chicago and fees incurred for visas will be reimbursed by Loyola, the email said. Students also have the option to work with the OIP to plan new study abroad options.
A final decision on JFRC classes will be decided by July 15, the email said.