University of Dallas students abroad in Italy take precautions amid coronavirus outbreak

University of Dallas students studying in Italy are taking precautions amid a coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Nearly 100 students are living and learning at the university's Rome campus in Marino, Italy. The university says no cases have been reported anywhere near their Rome campus, and none of their students in Italy have shown any signs of coronavirus.

More than 600 cases and 17 deaths have been reported in Italy, one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks outside of China.

“Everything's evolving so quickly,” said Natalie Villafranca, junior, University of Dallas.

Villafranca said the university has been updating students there since the start of the semester in January, when the coronavirus outbreak in China started making news.

“They gave us the option of taking these masks. Very few people took them because no one really thought it was a threat,” Villafranca said.

But since then, the situation has rapidly ballooned in Italy. The Italian government has restricted school trips to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We can't go to Greece because that would be a school field trip, we can't go to the Vatican as a group with a tour, we wouldn't be able to go,” Villafranca said.

Villafranca says university officials also questioned them about recent weekend travels and took their temperatures.  Some students who had gone near areas with coronavirus were put in semi-quarantine for a couple days. 

“There were eight students that had been to the Milan airport in the past three weeks, so they had them semi-quarantined. They had a mask on them and they were in separate living,” Villafranca said.

One of those semi-quarantined was University of Dallas junior Nathaniel Riddle's roommate.

“He went to Milan and when he returned due to the outbreak, he was sent into a room with four other men so all the people who could’ve been affected or exposed to the disease, that’s where they were sent for the appropriate incubation time,” Riddle said.

Riddle says it's common to see people taking precautions while traveling on buses or in the airport.

“There are people with masks. You walk in the airport, you’re being buzzed, you’re being tested. It’s definitely felt throughout every place I’ve been so far,” Riddle said.

Villafranca believes the response, so far, has been good.

“I think it's better to be cautious than to pretend it's not happening,” she said.