Coronavirus fears shut down overseas study programs in Lafayette and Baton Rouge

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — The spread of coronavirus has caused some Louisiana schools to cancel their international travel.

Today, both the University of Louisiana – Lafayette and Louisiana State University announced a suspension of select study abroad programs until fall.

The joy of the weekend has been a little tainted for 42 students in Lafayette and even more at LSU. They all signed up and paid for an educational experience in countries that have been deemed too contaminated for travel.

“This trip would’ve opened a lot of doors for me, and to see it ripped out from me and to feel like I’m not going to get to go anymore, it hurts,” said LSU student Tre Steptoe.

Steptoe is one of the students most closely affected by the newly canceled study abroad programs at LSU and UL.

The CDC recommends all people avoid nonessential travel to countries where there is widespread transmission of COVID-19, so universities in Baton Rouge and Lafayette are beginning to pull the plug.

“We look at all the circumstances surrounding the planning and where they are going to be going to, and if there’s a concern that something may impact their health, then we’re obviously going to make our decision to keep them here and keep them safe,” said UL Senior Communication Representative Eric Maron.

Maron said the school has been in constant communication with state Department of Health and the CDC since the coronavirus outbreak began in December.

Since Italy has become one of the second-most contagious countries, the decision was made now, with just enough time for affected students to get a full refund.

“I know a lot of them will be disappointed, but again their health and welfare is our primary concern, so we made the decision to protect them,” said Maron.

Some LSU students who were in China, Italy, Iran or South Korea have already returned home mid-semester. They are under a 14-day self-quarantine merely as a precaution.

“At the end of 14 days if you’ve self-quarantined because you have a history of travel or exposure, and you develop no symptoms then there’s no evidence to show at this moment that there’s any risk of that person transmitting,” said Regional State Office of Health Director Dr. Tina Stefanski.

Friday, Dr. Stefanski confirmed several people have been tested in the state. So far, no cases have been detected in Louisiana, but…

“Even as soon as today and this weekend, it is likely that there will be cases identified in Louisiana,” said Stefanski.

Remember, the coronavirus symptoms are similar to flu and can be avoided the same way, except for of course a vaccine, so use cleanliness.

For now, other study abroad programs this summer will continue as usual.

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