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Coronavirus impacting university travel plans

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Posted at 7:58 PM, Feb 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 15:58:47-04

TAMPA, Fla.-- Students and staff at Florida universities are changing travel plans thanks to the Coronavirus.

The University of Tampa said it has relocated a summer trip from China to Singapore.

"I wanted to see the opera, I also wanted to see architecture," said student Michaela Thomas.

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Thomas was among students and faculty scheduled to travel to China in May for a two-week trip, starting in Shanghai and ending in Beijing, studying speech in business.

"At first, I thought it’s fine you know, it’ll blow over there’s so much more time between December and May it’ll clear up before then but as things start to get more serious, I did get worried and especially my parents," said Thomas.

Faculty ultimately decided the trip needed to change locations.

"You pour your heart into a program and it’s a great program the students love it. It’s very it’s widely successful and popular among the students then we find out about this," said Kristen Foltz, a professor of speech at the University of Tampa. "We didn’t know. Should we cancel it? Do we postpone? Some of these students need this class to graduate in May so it was a lot of stressful decision making for sure."

Instead, they are traveling to Singapore.

"China, although they seem to be getting a grasp on it, we just were concerned that we were stepping into a dangerous situation and we never want to put the lives of our students in any type of peril," said Michael Staczar, the assistant dean for the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Tampa.

It's not the only university dealing with travel changes.

The University of South Florida stated it does not have any organized study abroad programs in China. It stated, "Out of an abundance of caution, the university has temporarily suspended all university-related travel to China for students and faculty."

Florida State University said it canceled its summer 2020 study abroad program in China, its only international program there. The university said it "continues to monitor the evolving situation in Asia and elsewhere."

Polk State College said its "...study abroad safety and security team is closely monitoring all trips. No decisions have been made regarding changes or cancellations of study abroad trips at this time."

There are currently no trips scheduled for China.

The University of North Florida said it has canceled all spring and summer faulty-led study abroad trips to China.

The University of Central Florida stated, "In keeping with federal guidance regarding avoiding nonessential travel to China, UCF determined it is in the university’s best interest to suspend travel and study abroad programs there for the current spring semester. We will continue our monitoring, coordination and communication protocols for these matters with the priority being keeping all UCF students and faculty and staff members safe."

Florida Atlantic University said it has no study abroad programs in China at this time.

Stetson University in DeLand postponed a Spring Break trip to Shanghai until summer.

Rollins College reported one student was scheduled to go to China in the spring, but the program, which had not yet started, was canceled.

The University of Florida has stated it won't approve university travel to China for employees and that the UF International Center will not approve travel to China for students until further notice.

Staff and students at the University of Tampa are still looking forward to their trip, though.

"I was a little disappointed at first but still happy I just wanted to go somewhere China was a pretty big place where I wanted to go but getting the chance to go to Singapore is very cool as well," said Thomas.