Rome campus locked down after COVID-19 outbreak

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Photo by Anthony Mazur

On Monday, Oct. 19, the Italian health authorities notified Dean and Director of the Rome program Dr. Peter Hatlie that two-thirds of the students on campus had tested positive. All students were tested after 3 students tested positive following a Southern Italy trip.

During dinner, students were instructed to stop eating and to head straight to their rooms and await further instruction. Effective immediately, the campus was shut down. During the night, students were told room by room whether they tested positive or negative, the results of which led to rooms being rearranged in order to separate positive and negative cases. 

But there was a feeling of confusion around campus; the students agreed that results did not make sense.

“There was something off about the test results when we first got them,” noted sophomore Isabella Libby, who initially tested positive. “Most of the people who showed obvious COVID symptoms tested negative, and almost everyone who tested positive was asymptomatic.” 

In the virtual town-hall meeting the following night, Hatlie confirmed what many had speculated: the test-results had been flipped. Instead of having two-thirds of campus testing positive, only one-third did. 

Students received the news with a mixture of jubilation and cynicism. Students who did not have the virus were grateful not to be plague-victims, but their firm faith in Italian healthcare began to waver. 

Michael Ulrich, a student who tested positive, remarked that “despite the incompetence of the Italian authorities, I still feel safe in Dean Hatlie’s hands.”

Of those who tested positive, all are in good health and many are asymptomatic. Rachel Kelly commented, “For having a deadly disease, I feel fantastic!”

The “emotional whiplash,” as Hatlie calls it, is strongly felt by the students who are having to deal with extreme changes in circumstance and a dreadfully consistent uncertainty.

All students, including those who tested negative, are currently still quarantined to their dorms, as dictated by Italian authorities. Students are allowed daily, monitored yard time, but must wear their masks outside or face fines. 

“We warned everyone from the beginning that the result of a COVID outbreak on campus would be a draconian lockdown,” said Will McEvoy, Rome resident coordinator. “We should all be thankful and happy that we get to have outside time.”

According to an Oct. 24 email, Hatlie said that everyone on campus will be retested by Tuesday, Oct. 27, and the students who test negative a second time in a row will be let out of quarantine.

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