The following message was emailed to the campus community on behalf of Provost Rogan Kersh:

Dear Wake Forest community:

In response to news of growing numbers of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in northern Italy and the possibility of increased travel restrictions, Wake Forest University is closing its study abroad program in Venice for the semester.

The 19 students and one faculty member will leave Casa Artom by this weekend.

They can return to campus here in Winston-Salem starting March 15. There is no evidence that they have been exposed to COVID-19, and their risk of contracting the virus remains low.

University health officials are in contact with our infectious disease consultant from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The University is following the recommended protocols from the CDC.

The University has communicated directly to the affected students and families and will work to make their transition back to campus as smooth as possible. Wake Forest’s top priority is the safety and wellbeing of Wake Forest students, faculty and staff.

While the health risk to the students and the faculty member in Venice remains low, the decision takes into consideration the uncertainty regarding local and international travel restrictions if the coronavirus continues to spread. Such restrictions would affect the study abroad experience for these students and could impact their ability to return to the United States at a later date.

WFU continues to closely monitor COVID-19 

Wake Forest continues to closely monitor the spread of coronavirus and its impact on other countries where Wake Forest students and faculty are studying and traveling during spring semester. The University is prepared to respond as needed and will continue to communicate with students, their families and employees potentially impacted by the spread of the coronavirus abroad.

One of the challenges associated with the coronavirus situation is that things are changing very rapidly; the recommendations in place currently might change if the virus spreads and as new information is gained. Wake Forest has a coronavirus website with links to international health organizations, and the site will be updated as new details emerge. We encourage any student, faculty, or staff who choose to travel to stay alert to State Department travel advisories or restrictions, airline cancellations, and recommendations from the CDC.

University health officials, Campus Life leaders, Global Programs and Studies officials and others are meeting regularly to discuss coronavirus, review operational plans and take proactive steps to minimize exposure and risk for our campus community. Decisions are being made based on many interrelated factors and considerations, including the most recent restrictions and recommendations of international and local health organizations.