API Safety Update – Coronavirus

February 24, 2020
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July 24th, 2020 4:30PM update:

Over the last few months, API team members have been monitoring the global pandemic and determining whether conditions allow for on-site programming to take place for Fall 2020. We have now passed our decision deadline for all of our fall semester programs, and due to the ongoing spread of the virus and resulting travel restrictions and control measures locally, we have cancelled all traditional on-site programs for the fall term. 

We continue to monitor the global situation and prepare for students to be abroad with us again, as conditions permit, in Spring 2021. 

Students who had plans to study abroad in the fall have a variety of alternative options. Enrollment can be deferred for up to one year for in-person programs, and specific information on that process and our cancellation policies can be found here. We have also developed a suite of innovative virtual programming options that allow students to still have an international experience in spite of current travel restrictions. Whatever the decision, API is ready to assist students, families and universities make the most of available opportunities during this challenging period.

March 30, 2020 3:00PM update:

Dear API Community, 

I hope this message finds you and your family well. These last several weeks have been the most difficult period in my professional life and in the history of API. When the Four Mamas formed API 23 years ago, one of our core values was to ensure that participant health and safety would be prioritized in our decisions and actions. API has long prided itself on the strength of our emergency action plans and how we have cared for our students during difficult times, ranging from natural disasters to social unrest to terror attacks.   

In early February, we initiated our emergency response first in China related to our Shanghai programs, cancelling spring programs prior to the spring semester start, followed by summer programs shortly after. By late February, it was also apparent that the impact of the COVID-19 spread would not be limited to Asia, and we were actively engaged in communications with our host partners, students, parents and stateside university partners. By mid-March, we had made the decision to bring home all (approximately 1,500) students worldwide. 

While this experience was traumatic, it also illuminated the strength, resiliency and character of our colleagues, partners, students, and their parents. Although not everyone outside of API immediately grasped the severity of the circumstances, collectively we rose to the occasion and orchestrated a transparent and safe return home. When travel warning levels were raised, and borders began closing across the world, we knew we had made the correct decision in recalling our participants to the U.S. Similarly, last week we announced the cancellation of all Summer 1 programs and programs with start dates before June 15th, and we will continue to monitor and comply with all government warnings and travel restrictions. As you can imagine, the absence of program revenue and the lack of visibility for the remainder of 2020 presents considerable financial hardship to API. 

In order to protect our mission and to survive the economic challenges brought on by the coronavirus, we took the necessary steps to sustain our operations. Unfortunately, this meant an unprecedented decision to reduce our staff and cut all non-essential expenses. We are heartbroken for our colleagues and for all of the families worldwide affected by both the health and economic impacts of this pandemic. 

Despite these necessary actions, we have chosen to maintain a core and critical group of API colleagues worldwide and are investing in the development of innovative and relevant experiential (virtual and in-person) learning programs for your institution and students. I am an optimistic person by nature and believe that humanity is kind and adaptable, and curious to learn about the world around them. For over 23 years, I saw it reflected in our students on a daily basis. 

Our remaining team, heading into week three of our new work-from-home routine, wakes up every day with passion, commitment and enthusiasm to ensure that experiential learning opportunities are available for every student. 

I am confident that our creative spirit and resilience will allow us to weather this storm, and we remain focused on the blue skies ahead. 

Jennifer Attal Allen

March 20, 2020 8:45PM update:

Here in the northern hemisphere, spring has sprung, and flowers are in bloom, providing small signs of hope and beauty in the midst of a time of great uncertainty and challenge for the world.  Under different circumstances, many of our Spring 2020 students would have recently completed midterm exams; others would have been heading out on or back from Spring Break travels. It is truly surreal to imagine where we all would have been at this moment if not for the dramatic impact of COVID-19.  

Yesterday the U.S. Department of State elevated their global health advisory level to 4 and advised all American citizens to return home now or risk being abroad indefinitely.  We write tonight to reassure the API community that the vast majority of API students are already back in the United States or in their respective home countries, and they are preparing for or have already begun completing coursework remotely.  API students who had voluntarily elected to remain on-site independently received a notice of our continued recommendation to return home as soon as possible, before additional travel restrictions make it either more difficult or even impossible to do so.  

API has received periodic updates directly from affected students or our host universities partners if they have knowledge of an individual with a positive diagnosis of COVID-19.  We are taking care to pass along this information to our students in affected sites, so they are aware to be even more cautious and watch for symptoms.

Throughout this difficult situation, API has been committed to remaining a steady presence for our students and their families.  Our most immediate priority has been ensuring students on-site were safe, and as we cancelled programs, that they returned home. In addition to being home safe, we also want to give proper attention to ensuring that students have the means to complete their coursework remotely and that they are receiving all of the necessary updates from their host institutions abroad.  Our Student Success team is 100% devoted to ensuring that students have the tools they need to complete their semesters remotely.

API’s international team is working to determine all of the recoverable costs for our Spring 2020 students.  Refunds for our students, where available, cannot be processed overnight. We understand that these delays are frustrating, given that students were, in the case of Italy for example, asked to return home weeks ago.  Negotiating and recouping refunded monies has been slowed in part by the grave conditions currently being experienced by our host countries: the number of mortalities continues to rise and many of our beloved colleagues and partners are quarantined within their homes, allowed only to leave to purchase food and other necessities.  Our partners abroad are also adjusting to this alternate reality, and they are coming to terms with the fact that the visiting students who sustain their livelihoods are not coming back to their countries in the near future. The work they love and dedicate their lives to is irrevocably changed, at least for the immediate future. 

Having said that, our teams abroad are working diligently from their homes, following the restrictions that limit their movements, and working to secure as many refunds from our partners as possible.  We are compiling information and will review the final tallies city by city. As each site’s finances are closed, we will issue refunds to our students and their families. We know how many of our students are recipients of financial aid – and we know how much their families have sacrificed to pay for this experience abroad, only for it to be so abruptly curtailed.  We understand and truly feel that anxiety and concern along with you.  

We take comfort in seeing how many of our institutional partners abroad have risen to the challenge of providing distance learning accommodations to our students.  To illustrate what a huge shift this is, as recently as five years ago, when the Paris terrorist attacks shocked the world, our partners in France were not in a position to allow students to return home early and complete their coursework from home.  Some students who did not elect to stay on-site had to forfeit their academic credits. Today we have commitments from nearly every academic partner abroad that students will receive academic credit in some capacity. Likewise, our U.S. university partners are doing everything in their power to be flexible and to allow credits to transfer for as many students as possible.

In these tumultuous times, we realize how interconnected we are in this world; how much the actions we take today will impact those who follow us in the future. We hope our students, even in the brief time they have spent abroad, consciously experienced the incredible gift of stepping outside their daily routines, seeing new ways of experiencing life, and learning in a new way. While their time abroad was dramatically cut short, seeing the world from a different viewpoint and the opportunity to experience a different culture will still have a profound impact on their lives. We are grateful to have had the chance to facilitate these experiences for our students. Our staff is honored to have played a role in their education and personal growth, albeit on a more limited basis than we had hoped due to the unprecedented circumstances that cut each program short.

Our students, their families and our colleagues are the lifeblood of who we are as an organization.  We truly believe we are transforming the world, one student at a time. Inasmuch, we seek your continued patience with refunds and certain academic accommodations. As an organization made up of people whose greatest aspiration is to leave a positive mark on the world, we will do everything in our power to help our students.  

With all of our best hopes and wishes for happier times,
The API Family

March 15, 2020 12:15PM update:

API continues to be in frequent contact with our students and their families, particularly those who are struggling to make arrangements to return home.  We wish to publicly reassure all of our students and families that API will continue to support students who are unable to depart their host countries to the best of our ability.  We reiterate that no student will be forced to leave their API housing until they are able to secure a flight home.  

Restrictions on movement and activities are continuing to increase around the world in a continued effort to curb the further spread of COVID-19. We share the following country-specific updates:

Argentina: As of Monday, March 15, flights into and out of Argentina will be restricted.  Travelers from Europe and the United States will not be allowed to enter for 30 days.

Australia and New Zealand: Both governments have ordered 14-days periods of “self- isolation” for incoming travelers from outside of the country.

Chile: The internal health advisory level has been increased.  Gatherings larger than 500 people have been prohibited. Additional restrictive measures are anticipated in the coming days. 

Czech Republic: As of 11:59 pm Monday, March 16, the borders will be closed to incoming travelers and only non-Czech travelers will be allowed to leave the country. 

France: As of 12 am on Sunday, March 15, all non-food shops, bars and restaurants were closed throughout the country.  Schools nationwide are closed as of Monday, March 16.

Germany: As of Tuesday, March 17, all bars, clubs, and fitness centers will be closed in Berlin.  Some restaurants remain open but others are closing. Regional transportation within Germany is being reduced in the coming week and widescale school closures are in effect.

Ireland and United Kingdom: Increased travel restrictions were announced by the United States on Friday that go into effect at midnight on Monday, March 17.  These new restrictions may result in a marked decrease in flights to and from the United States from these countries and departing students have reported major airport delays.  

Poland: Poland announced that borders would be closed between March 15-25.  This restriction implies that cancellation of all flight into and out of Poland, as well as the suspension of trains.  

Spain:  Spain has enacted a “state of alarm.”  The national government now has extraordinary powers for the next 15 days. Individuals are required to stay in their home and only circulate outside in the following cases: to purchase food, medical supplies or other items of priority; to travel to healthcare facilities; to attend work; to take care of the elderly, etc. As a result of these measures, public transportation will be reduced. Additional official information is available here.  

The above list of restrictions is not inclusive of all measures that have been put in place in every API host country. API students have received updates about any new restrictions that directly affect them from their API on-site Resident Directors. 

Students who are encountering difficulties with local transportation or departure delays should consult with their on-site director first for assistance, as they are best equipped to help students make alternate arrangements. Due to increased restrictions on movement, API offices around the world may have more limited hours in the coming week, but all sites maintain a site-specific 24-hour emergency phone number. Students should continue to call and email API’s on-site personnel with their concerns and our team abroad will consult with our Texas office as needed for additional support. Family members with urgent concerns may contact our main office line at +1.512.600.8900 and select 9 to be connected to our afterhours emergency service.  

All messages will be relayed to API and returned as quickly as possible.

We encourage all departing students to arrive for check-in and screening at the airport extremely early.  Reports from recently returned students have indicated that increased screening procedures have led to delays in excess of 5 hours.  All API students are advised to report to the airport as early as possible for their international flights. 

API would also like to remind students and their families that their API insurance remains in effect until the original program end date or until re-entry into the United States, whichever comes first. Students who have not yet been able to depart their host countries should continue to notify API Resident Directors if they have any health concerns, particularly if they display symptoms of COVID-19. API’s medical insurance policy will cover necessary medical treatment, if students require it on-site.

We know that this unprecedented turn of events is resulting in considerable anxiety and sadness for our students and their families. We wish each member of the API community continued health and a safe return home. Please do not hesitate to reach out to API staff abroad or in the API Texas office if we can provide any additional guidance.

March 13, 2020 4:40PM update:

With a heavy heart, API is moving to cancel the remainder of our Spring 2020 programs worldwide. This cancellation announcement applies to all API programs operating in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Southern Pacific region, including all of the following countries that had previously remained open: 

Argentina, Australia, Bhutan, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Ecuador, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, United Arab Emirates

The spread of COVID-19 is compelling governments around the world to implement travel restrictions, close schools and restrict public gatherings.  Most recently, we have seen one government suspend travel to and from the United States, and new measures can be approved and enacted on a daily basis by governments seeking to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and thereby protect their citizens.  On March 12, the U.S. Department of State issued an advisory to all Americans that requested that they reconsider all travel abroad. In this advisory, it was noted that “many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions.” 

Given this uncertainty, and in accordance with API’s first priority of the protection of student health and wellbeing, we must make the difficult decision to call home all of our students, as many of our U.S. university partners have already done earlier this week.  While we hoped we could continue to maintain programs in countries with lower numbers of cases of COVID-19, the reactions and measures taken by governments around the world compel us to cancel our programs now, while students still have the option to return to their home countries and families without further delays. 

Students must immediately work to change their roundtrip flights and return home by Friday, March 20. 

API continues to work with our host partner institutions and universities around the world to determine the options available to complete coursework remotely. We are communicating with students directly as quickly as we can to provide updates on the new processes for completing coursework.  We are working to determine what aspects of the fees paid on behalf of our students for housing, excursions and events can be recovered, and we will be following up in the coming weeks with specific refund figures for our students.

We understand that this is a difficult time for everyone.  There is a great deal of concern about the immediate impacts of COVID-19 on our communities and families, and concerns over how life will look day-to-day.  API reiterates to our students, their families and our partners both stateside and abroad that these are unprecedented circumstances. We considered all other options before making the decision to cancel the remainder of our programs.  We do so now with a great sense of sadness, knowing how much our students abroad have been growing and transforming as a result of their experiences. From all of the API family, we send you our best wishes for health and tranquility in the days ahead.

March 12, 2020 12:00AM update:

It is with great regret and sadness that API announces that we must immediately cancel all API Spring 2020 programming in Europe outside of Croatia, Ireland and the United Kingdom.  Following President Trump’s address to the nation this evening, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) began updating all travel alert levels worldwide. As of 9:40 pm CDT, the following API host countries were elevated to a CDC travel warning level 3:

  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Spain

API students participating in programs in any of the European countries in the bulleted list above should make plans to return home by Friday, March 20, 2020.  

We understand that many students and their families are concerned how today’s Presidential Proclamation will impact their ability to return home to the United States.  We alert students and their families that more specific language about these new travel restrictions has been publicly shared via the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at https://www.dhs.gov/news/2020/03/11/homeland-security-acting-secretary-chad-f-wolf-s-statement-presidential-proclamation and via the official White House website at https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspension-entry-immigrants-nonimmigrants-certain-additional-persons-pose-risk-transmitting-2019-novel-coronavirus/. Of particular note, according to the DHS guidance, the travel restrictions announced by the President tonight will not apply to United States citizens coming home from Europe.  It is our understanding, however, that the United States government has the authority to impose new screening measures, require self-quarantine or fully quarantine returning travelers at its discretion. At the current time, we advise all API students and their families that all travelers returning to the United States from a country with a level 2 or 3 warning designation by the CDC may be subject to additional screening measures upon entry to the United States and will be required to practice self-quarantine, limiting interactions with others for 14 days as detailed online at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/warning/coronavirus-europe.

Furthermore, given that we do not know exactly how newly announced travel restrictions will affect our students’ ability to immediately depart from Europe, no student or family member should worry if they are unable to secure an immediate flight home to the United States. No API student will be forced to vacate their API housing before they are able to find transportation options to return home. 

Because CDC warning levels have not risen beyond level 2 for Croatia, Ireland, or the United Kingdom (i.e., England and Scotland), API is not canceling any spring programs in these countries at this time.  However, should the CDC warning levels be raised to a “3”, programs in these locations would also be canceled.

API continues to work with our host university partners in all of our host countries to determine the availability of distance learning options.  We have commitments from multiple partners in Europe and beyond to allow for alternate instruction models and fully anticipate that additional partners will seek to accommodate our students as a result of these newly announced travel restrictions and program closures. 

March 10, 2020, 7:25PM update:

As the spread of COVID-19 continues worldwide, each day brings new information and developments for students, their families and our partners in the U.S. and around the world. We remind all affected students, families and partners that during these rapidly changing times, API continues to closely monitor the recommendations and guidance provided daily by the CDC, the U.S. State Department and local governments in the countries where API is operating our programs. The safety and wellbeing of our students will always be our first priority and we continue to make decisions with this commitment as our guide. 

Over the course of a few hours yesterday, multiple decisions were made by European governments that significantly affect API students.  First, the closure of schools in three regions of Spain were announced, and Madrid is in one of these affected regions. Second, more stringent measures were adopted nationwide by the Italian government to slow the spread of COVID-19.  As of today, March 10, announcements were made in several other countries regarding the suspension of courses at multiple universities within Europe. We will detail API’s reactions to each of these decisions below.  

Status of API Programs in Italy

On the evening of March 9, 2020, the Italian government announced its plans to extend virus-control measures and travel restrictions throughout the whole country.  Previously, restrictions were in effect only in northern Italy and nationwide school closures were planned only until March 15, 2020. As a result of these recent updates, schools throughout Italy must remain closed until April 3, 2020, and at that time, the situation will be evaluated by the Italian government.  With the implementation of these more stringent measures and limitations to internal movement and travel, Italy is seeking to minimize the exposure to COVID-19 for more vulnerable populations and thereby ensure that the public health system continues to function as well as possible.

At API, it was our hope to delay any decision regarding the status of the currently suspended API programs in Italy until the end of March. However, as a result of these newly implemented measures by the Italian government, and with the health and safety of our students in mind, API is formally cancelling all Spring 2020 programs in Italy.  This cancellation signifies that we will not be able to reopen our programs in Italy and therefore, we cannot invite our Italy participants to return to Italy or their API housing prior to the end of the semester. API’s decision will not affect students’ ability to complete their coursework via distance learning. Our host institutions continue to prepare for the onset of distance learning. 

Beyond the disappointment of not being able to return, we know the financial questions are of paramount concern to our students and their families.  API continues the process of soliciting refunds on behalf of our students for all forfeited activities and events. As soon as we have confirmed all recoverable costs from our on-partners, we will be in communication with all affected students and families.

Travel Advice for Students in Europe

Given increased measures being taken by governments across Europe, we have encouraged all API students in Europe to reconsider independent travel, particularly international travel.  Due to recommendations from the Spanish Minister of Health, we have encouraged all students in Spain to carefully consider not traveling in Spain and have suspended all API excursions within Spain until further notice.  All API international excursions in Europe have also been suspended.  A formal notice via email was sent to all API Europe students who are affected.

University Suspensions 

Universities in multiple European cities are electing to temporarily suspend in-person classes.  At the current time, these suspensions are open-ended in the case of Prague, Czech Republic, and Krakow, Poland, and set to last for 15 days in the case of Madrid.  As of 6 pm central time, no other API host institutions in Spain have suspended or cancelled classes. Temporary campus closures have also occurred in Thimphu, Bhutan, and in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, as well, and we are awaiting further details about additional closures. All affected students are notified of specific plans regarding plans for the continuation of academic progress as soon as details are confirmed by our host institutions.

Program Suspensions and Cancellations Outside of Italy

API continues to follow our original parameters for program cancellation or suspension:

– An elevation in the CDC alert level to a 3 (“avoid non-essential travel” recommendation) for the host country;

– An elevation in the U.S. State Department advisory level for the country to a 4 (“do not travel” status);

– The host country or U.S. government recommends evacuation or immediate departure for foreign visitors or U.S. citizens.

If we believe that situations in-country warrant cancellation or suspension prior to any one of the above conditions being met, we will not hesitate to do so in the interest of student safety or wellbeing.  

We know these uncertain times are difficult for everyone.  We applaud the perseverance and patience of all of our spring students.  We reiterate to all students and our families that we do not take program cancellations or suspensions lightly. We are doing everything in our control to protect the academic experiences of our students abroad while maintaining our commitment to always making decisions in the best interest of the safety of our participants.

March 6, 2020, 6:45PM update:

This week, like many of you, our team at API has remained focused on monitoring official news sources, reviewing government updates and watching the continued spread of the COVID-19 around the world.  Our directors abroad provide daily updates regarding the status of the virus in their countries and the local responses.

As an organization, we remain committed to providing students with as much support and information as possible.  Students who left Italy earlier this week have received numerous updates from API regarding the status of online courses, as well as official reentry procedures and recommendations from the CDC regarding their return to the United States. 

Over the course of the week, we have seen the first cases of COVID-19 in many of our host countries, including Argentina, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Chile, Hungary, Poland, and Portugal, among others. In some cases, those first confirmed cases haven’t resulted in specific restrictions on activities or movement, whereas in Bhutan, it has led to nationwide school closures and restrictions on travel. Each time a country in which we operate confirms its first case of the virus, we notify our students of this development. We also remind them to adhere to CDC and WHO recommendations for staying healthy, and to alert our Resident Coordinators/Directors and seek medical care immediately if they exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19.  If specific governmental recommendations have been issued, those are also shared with students.

As of Friday, March 6, at 4:10 pm CST, below please find for your reference the current CDC travel alert levels for each country in which API operates:

  • Argentina: no active CDC travel notice
  • Australia: no active CDC travel notice
  • Bhutan: no active CDC travel notice
  • China: CDC level 3 travel alert
  • Costa Rica: no active CDC travel notice
  • Czech Republic: no active CDC travel notice
  • Croatia: no active CDC travel notice
  • Cuba: no active CDC travel notice
  • Ecuador: no active CDC travel notice
  • France: no active CDC travel notice
  • Germany: no active CDC travel notice
  • Hungary: no active CDC travel notice
  • Iceland: no active CDC travel notice
  • Ireland: no active CDC travel notice
  • Italy: CDC level 3 travel alert
  • New Zealand: no active CDC travel notice
  • Poland: no active CDC travel notice
  • Portugal: no active CDC travel notice
  • Spain: no active CDC travel notice
  • United Arab Emirates: no active CDC travel notice
  • United Kingdom (England, Scotland): no active CDC travel notice

We will continue to monitor the situation throughout the weekend and will provide additional updates as warranted. 

March 4, 2020, 10:10AM update:

API wishes to alert our community that the CDC now publicly indicates on their website that any travelers returning to the United States from a country with a travel alert level of 3 should effectively self-quarantine for two weeks. As many API Italy students have recently returned from abroad or are returning to the U.S. later this week, it is important to follow these safety guidelines from the CDC.  As reiterated on the CDC’s Travelers’ Health Page for Italy:

Travelers should stay home and monitor their health during travel and for 14 days after returning to the United States.

API also has learned that some U.S. universities may have additional restrictions regarding a return to campus; students are encouraged to contact their home universities to understand their particular policies.

March 2, 2020, 12:20PM update:

In light of the rapidly changing dynamics of the COVID-19 situation, on March 1, 2020, at approximately 10:00 pm eastern time, the CDC issued a public statement encouraging U.S. institutions of higher education (e.g., universities and colleges) to “consider asking current program participants [in student foreign exchange programs] to return to their home country.” All API participants are urged to contact their home university for any new instructions as a result of this recent CDC guidance.

API is closely evaluating this newly released CDC guidance in conjunction with the country-specific warnings that the CDC and U.S. State Department issue. Likewise, API will continue to closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 in the host countries of our programs. This monitoring includes, but is not limited to:

  • continually evaluating CDC and other U.S. governmental guidance;
  • frequent review of local government responses in each country where API is working, as well as that of our local partner institutions;
  • gathering responses and protocols of U.S.-based universities and colleges.

As previously shared with our students abroad and publicly via the API Blog on February 27, 2020, API will determine whether we can continue to operate our spring programs in light of current safety considerations and these evolving governmental recommendations.  We remind all families that the following events, in isolation or together, would compel API to cancel or temporarily suspend our programs in a host country:

  • An elevation in the CDC alert level to a 3 (“avoid non-essential travel” recommendation) for the host country;
  • An elevation in the U.S. State Department advisory level for the country to a 4 (“do not travel” status);
  • The host country or U.S. government recommends evacuation or immediate departure for foreign visitors or U.S. citizens.

These factors have already been applied to Italy where API Spring 2020 programs have been suspended.  Importantly, please note that while these factors are currently our guiding criteria for suspension or cancellation, API may at any time expand this list of criteria if it is deemed to be in the best interest, safety and wellbeing of our participants. 

Irrespective of the API suspension or cancellation criteria, all API participants and their families should be keenly aware of the following, given the dynamic and changing situation with COVID-19:

1) The U.S government and/or local host governments can enact travel restrictions, institute quarantines, and activate additional border screening processes at any time;

2) Flight carriers can announce suspension of travel routes into and out of a country at any time;

3) A home university in the United States may choose to call students home at any time.

Again, all API students are strongly encouraged to reach out to their home university to determine what changes to university policy the CDC guidance may inspire. Any student or family who feels uncomfortable continuing in the API programs for the Spring 2020 session should immediately communicate their concerns to the API on-site director(s).

API will continue to keep you apprised of any updates in this ever-evolving situation. 

February 29th, 8:30PM update:

Earlier this afternoon, the U.S. Department of State increased the alert level in two regions of northern Italy, Lombardy and Veneto, to a 4.  This alert level signifies that the U.S. State Department recommends that Americans do not travel to these areas. All API students in Europe are reminded that travel to northern Italy is to be avoided.  Several airline companies, including JetBlue and British Airways, had already decreased flights into and out of northern Italy. 

For any of our Italy students who are still working to book their flights home, we remind you to check if change fees can be waived with your flight carrier.  We are aware that American Airlines, Delta and United have all done so. We also encourage students and families to speak with the credit card company used to make their original international flight booking; credit card companies may automatically offer trip interruption insurance that can help to absorb some of the flight change fees.

A reminder that API offices in Rome and Florence are open tomorrow from 11 am to 4 pm to assist students with their departure preparations.

February 29th, 11AM update:

We encourage all API Italy students and families to review the letter below from Jennifer Allen, API’s CEO:

Dear API students and families,

API has continued to receive notifications throughout the night from concerned students in Italy and their families in response to our decision to temporarily suspend all Spring 2020 API programs in Italy. As my colleagues have shared throughout the week, API prioritizes above all else the safety and security of our students. API was founded in 1997 and in the twenty-three years of our operations, we have never before suspended a program while students were onsite.

This situation is unprecedented for API and we are making decisions very carefully and deliberately, applying our knowledge of the Standards for Good Practice for the field of international education.

The API team sought to promote transparency throughout this difficult week, and we alerted all families and students that an upgrading in the alert level to 3 by the CDC would prompt temporary suspension or cancellation of our programs in the affected areas. As soon as we learned late yesterday afternoon that the CDC had taken the step to upgrade the alert level in Italy, we convened our Crisis Management team and alerted families and students in the hours that followed the difficult decision to suspend our programs in Italy. This decision was reinforced by many of API’s U.S.-based partners, who are themselves calling their students home in light of the CDC level 3 warning level. Throughout the week, we worked to make proactive preparations for the potential closure of our programs, allowing students to remain in Italy as long as Italian and U.S. government agencies deemed it reasonably safe to do so. We remind students and families that our offices in Rome and Florence are open today, Saturday, February 29, and tomorrow, Sunday, March 1. Our directors have been and will continue to assist students as they make their travel plans, and we encourage students to consult them as needed.

We know many families are worried about the transference of academic credit. Our host institutions in Italy are continuing to support students from API (as well as from other program providers and a multitude of home universities who are also calling students home). Both JCU and LdM have offered distance education options and specific details have been shared with students as soon as they were confirmed. Other families are most concerned that their students have been asked to leave API housing on or before next Friday, March 6, without a refund of housing fees. We do plan to provide additional financial information this afternoon. We appreciate your patience, as solutions during these difficult situations are always multifaceted and take time.

In regards to medical coverage, API’s healthcare provider will continue to provide medical coverage to any API Italy student as long as they remain abroad and the original program end date has not passed. API insurance coverage automatically stops as soon as students reenter the U.S. If we are able to reinstate the API programs in Italy, the insurance coverage will automatically be reactivated.

I would like to conclude by reassuring all students and families that the API team will continue to work tirelessly to support you to the fullest extent possible. We are closely monitoring the spread of the coronavirus outside of Italy as well, and we are watching the CDC’s response to transmission on the continent.

Jennifer Attal Allen

February 28th, 7:50PM update:

For all European participants:

The CDC recommends avoiding non-essential travel to Italy and has increased the warning level for Italy to a 3, the highest level of alert.  API cautions all students to avoid traveling to Italy until the warning level has been reduced. 

As the situation with the spread of coronavirus continues to evolve, all participants are reminded that API’s policy specifies that elevation to a level 3 warning by the CDC will result in program suspension. Students may review country-specific CDC warning levels here.

February 28th, 7:45PM update

Dear Italy Students and Parents,

Given the elevation of the CDC warning level in Italy to a 3 earlier this evening, we regret to inform you that API must suspend all of the API Spring 2020 programs in Italy, including all programs in Florence, Rome, Taormina and Tuscania.  API will consider reopening our programs in Italy if the warning level is downgraded.

All API students currently in Italy must make immediate plans to leave the country.  API housing will remain available to all API students until plans can be made for your departure.  Any student who is unable to secure plans to depart Italy by Friday, March 6, must speak with API regarding alternate options.

As all API students directly booked their own flights, students should immediately contact their flight carriers to make alternate flight arrangements to leave Italy.  Students who encounter difficulty making alternate flight plans are encouraged to work with the API insurance carrier, On Call International, who can assist you in making flight arrangements at your own expense.  The On Call International number is 855 226 8490.  Please make sure to reference that the policy is held by Academic Programs International.

API will be working with our host university partners throughout the weekend. Specific academic concerns will be addressed next week.  Financial considerations will be evaluated in the coming weeks, once we are able to determine if the program will resume and what API’s non-recoverable costs are.  Please note that housing and tuition have been fully paid on behalf of all students and are non-refundable by API partners.

February 28th, 4:30PM update

API is aware that the CDC and State Department have increased the alert levels for Italy to Level 3. All Italy students are being informed by their API Resident Directors. We will communicate further updates to students and families as soon as possible.

February 28th, 1:30PM update

We have received new information from John Cabot University in Rome regarding their academic contingency plans. JCU has informed us that they will continue in-person operations, given that there are no cases of COVID-19 in Rome, the CDC has Italy at a Level 2 travel alert, and the Italian government has put no restrictions on operation of schools in the city. All schools, from kindergarten to university, are open as normal.

JCU will arrange remote learning for students who fall into one of the following categories:1) those with medical documentation that they have an immune deficiency or other health risk related to COVID-19;2) those whose home university has made the decision to bring students home from Italy permanently or temporarily.  Students in either of these categories who wish to leave are asked to submit JCU’s Temporary Leave Form to the Registrar’s Office. JCU would allow students who meet these conditions to leave for a temporary period of time and return to Rome to continue in-person studies at any time during the standard spring program.  Any API JCU student who must depart due to one of the above-listed conditions should also communicate their decision to the API Resident Directors and their home university.

February 28th, 11AM update

As of February 28 at 11:22 AM central time, the official United States’ CDC level remained at level 2 for Italy.  We are aware that Taiwan recently elevated their alert level and implemented travel restrictions for individuals coming from Italy; as their web address is very close to the U.S. CDC, we know some students became alarmed when mistaking this alert for one from the United States. We encourage families and students to bookmark the following link to avoid further confusion: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/coronavirus-italy API is pleased that our partner institution in Florence, LdM, has shared with students a comprehensive update regarding the distance education option for students who wish to depart early from Florence.  Families are encouraged to review the information carefully with their students to ensure that all deadlines indicated are carefully followed, should the distance education option be their preference. We wish to state formally that LdM will continue to offer classes on campus as normally scheduled, unless government mandates obligate them to close LdM temporarily.  In such a case, all students on-site would be presented with an alternate option to continue their coursework until the campus re-opens.  Our Italy Regional Director was personally reassured during her meeting in Florence with the Municipal Councilor for Schools and Universities, who was sent to represent the mayor yesterday. We encourage all students in Florence and their families to review a letter from the Florentine mayor that can be found here.   We remind all students that any decision to depart from their API Italy program must be communicated to the API directors on-site or to the API Texas Student Success team by emailing Erica Sowder at [email protected].  LdM students wishing to take advantage of the distance education option should meet with the corresponding LdM Advisor prior to departure and be in communication with their home university.

February 27th, 2PM update:

API understands that some families and students are concerned about remaining in Italy.  With that in mind, API wishes to reiterate our position and provide additional clarification for all involved parties. 

As of the time of this notice, neither the U.S. nor European governments have recommended the cancelation of programs in Italy, nor have they restricted or recommended avoiding travel to any part of the Europe outside of the affected regions in northern Italy (Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, Friuli Venezia Giulia).  Similarly, the U.S. government has not moved to evacuate American citizens from any destination in Italy.

The following events, in isolation or together, would compel API to cancel or temporarily suspend our programs in Italy:

  • An elevation in the CDC alert level from a 2 to 3 for Italy;
  • An elevation in the U.S. State Department advisory level for the country to a 4 (“do not travel” status);
  • The Italian or U.S. governments recommend evacuation or immediate departure for foreign visitors or U.S. citizens.

Though there are other potential circumstances that may also lead API to suspend or cancel a program, any of the conditions outlined above would serve as definitive justification for closure of our programs prior to the standard program end date.

We reiterate that API in no way wishes to restrict any students from leaving if it is their preference is to do so. We only issue the cautionary advice that a guarantee of full credit transference cannot be assumed; API continues to work with our host university partners to provide academic accommodations to the fullest extent possible. 

Moving forward, in the event that LdM, JCU, or another host institution had to temporarily suspend their courses due to governmental mandates to close schools, API would allow students to remain in our housing until the official API program end date, provided that there were no government mandates to evacuate.

Last, given that API continues to maintain standard program functions in all of our Italian and European sites, no special financial accommodations related to flight changes will be provided to students. Some form of financial support for flight changes may be possible if API does move to suspend our program operations as a result of the parameters outlined above. 

It is understandable that families who are weighing whether they wish their student to continue abroad under the current circumstances are curious about whether API will ultimately offer some sort of refund if we eventually cancel the program.  If such a decision were to be made, API would review the possibility for compensation for any standard program costs that are recoverable by API, for example, fees related to excursion components that have not yet occurred.

February 26th, 6PM update:

API has spent the day monitoring official news sources, consulting with our Italy Regional Director about the situation on-the-ground, and reviewing academic protocols with LdM, API’s host university partner in Florence.

We know that many families and students are feeling unnerved by the continued spread of the coronavirus and are feeling a sense of uncertainty about if or when API might cancel our programs.  The news outlets are focusing on the cancellation of other high-profile programs in the area.  While it is not being emphasized by the media, our directors on the ground and international education groups have confirmed that API is not alone in its commitment to continuing our programs in Italy; many U.S.-based programs remain operational in Italy.

Our on-site directors assure us that life continues normally on-site in Florence, Rome, Taormina, and Tuscania, with locals reporting to work and children going to school as normal.  Isolated shortages of food have been reported in some city stores in Florence, but these shortages are short-lived and shelves are restocked frequently. 

Despite some uncertainty, many of our students and families have voiced their support of API’s decision to continue our programming in Italy and welcome the opportunity for students to stay abroad, continuing their academic studies as planned. Most families who have called API in recent days indicate that the potential for border closures and a mass quarantine are their biggest sources of anxiety.  We empathize with those concerns, yet we are reassured by our team members on-site that the situation will be addressed in a measured fashion, prioritizing the safety and well-being of all residents and visitors in Italy.

Most students have continued their experience on-site, and just a small minority of API students from Florence have made the personal decision to leave their API program.  Most of these students have indicated their desire to eventually return to Florence to complete the semester.  We again reiterate our understanding that every family needs to make an individual decision based on their tolerance of the ambiguity of this situation; we will fully support each student, irrespective of their choice.

As we seek to identify the best means for those Florence participants who wish to complete coursework from afar, API is supporting LdM with their efforts to explore alternate course delivery options.  In the coming days, API will assist LdM to solicit formal approval from home institutions for specific academic plans based on individual circumstances. 

In Rome, JCU students were invited to a presentation by an Italian physician, who discussed the coronavirus. Courses are proceeding normally at both of our Roman host institutions and as of this time, API is not aware of any confirmed cases in Rome. In our program sites in Tuscania and Taormina, academic activities also continue uninterrupted.  

More updates from API will be forthcoming tomorrow.

February 26th, 10:30AM update:

All API students in Italy are registered with the STEP program with the U.S. Department of State.  As of this 10:21 AM central time this morning, the notice  below was shared by the U.S. Embassy in Rome.  Italy remains at a level 2 advisory, as it had been prior to the cluster of coronavirus cases in the north of the country.  This notice also includes the CDC’s current recommendations regarding travel to Italy.

Italy – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution                                        

Exercise increased caution in Italy due to a recent outbreak of COVID-19 and terrorism.   

A novel (new) coronavirus disease, recently designated as COVID-19 and also known as the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, is causing an outbreak of respiratory illness.  The first cases of COVID-19 were reported in China in December 2019.  On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization determined the rapidly spreading outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.  Many COVID-19 cases have been associated with travel to or from mainland China or close contact with a travel-related case.  Multiple cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Italy. Italian government authorities are working to identify how and where these people were infected.  The CDC has issued a Level 2 Travel Health Notice for Italy.  At this time, CDC does not recommend canceling or postponing travel to Italy. 

Italy remains a Level-Two based on the longstanding risk presented by terrorist groups, who continue plotting possible attacks in Italy. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas. 

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page. If you decide to travel to Italy:

·     Read the Centers for Disease Control’sguidelines for the prevention of coronavirusand information on health conditions in Italy.

·     Review the Embassy’s latest alerts for additional information regarding COVID-19 in Italy.

·     Follow Italian health official guidance and avoid government-designated affected areas.

·     Be aware of your surroundings when traveling to tourist locations and crowded public venues.

·     Follow the instructions of local authorities.

·     Monitor local media for breaking events and adjust your plans based on new information.

·     Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.

·     Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

·     Review the Crime and Safety Reports for Italy.

·     Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations.  Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

Last Update: Reissued with the addition of the H Risk Indicator and public health information.

February 25th 8:30PM update:

We thank all members of the API community for their continued patience as we carefully worked with our partners abroad today and monitored updates coming from local authorities.
API wishes to reassure our students and their families that we remain committed to running our programs in Italy and throughout Europe.  While it is true that other programs have opted to temporarily suspend their classes, official recommendations by the Italian and U.S. governments do not yet compel API or our host university partners to make the same decision. We will continually evaluate our position based on safety recommendations of local and U.S. authorities and updates will continue to be shared.
At the present time, students and their families who have alerted API to their desire to return home either temporarily or permanently are being provided with individualized support and guidance; the home universities of these students have also been notified individually by our staff.
As of 7:30 pm this evening central time, we had received notification by both of our host partners in Florence and Rome, Lorenzo de’Medici: The Italian International Institute (LdM) and John Cabot University (JCU), of their plans to continue to offer classes as scheduled. In the case of LdM, they have indicated that if an API student wishes to return home, they will seek to offer them a distance learning option.  To determine which classes may be offered in this alternate format, any student who would like to return home early should speak directly with their LdM advisor.  On an individual basis, it will be determined which courses can be completed via distance learning and input from each student’s home university will be sought before approving the alternate plan. JCU is still moving forward with classes as regularly scheduled and will provide further updates as the situation proceeds. 
All students and families must ultimately make the choice that best suits their family’s preferences and comfort level.  API will continue to support students who wish to remain in the program and those who wish to discontinue, either temporarily or permanently, their semester abroad.

February 25th update 9AM update:

API has continued to hear from families and students with concerns about the spread of the coronavirus within Italy.  We know many of our students in Europe are feeling anxiety over the continued spread of the illness.  As of yesterday, API had elected to suspend all API-sponsored excursions within Italy and reminded students to avoid the affected regions in the north of the country, following recommendations by the Italian and U.S. governments.
As of this morning, API is aware that several cases of the coronavirus have been diagnosed within the regions of Tuscany and Sicily.  We also know that the NYU Florence program has made the proactive decision to temporarily suspend their program for one month, offering students the option to complete coursework online.  API is working with our host university partners in Italy to identify the best options for our students, and continuing to monitor the most recent information coming from the U.S. and Italian governments.  Our on-site directors continue to be available to students who wish to discuss any concerns they have. 
We will continue to post updates as they become available today and in the following days. 

February 24th update:

Over the weekend, international news reports and notices from the U.S. Embassy in Rome provided more information about a cluster of cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) occurring in two regions, Lombardy and Veneto, in northern Italy. Officials are seeking to contain the cases by restricting travel to and from the affected regions and cancelling events and activities. 

API has taken measures to share these Embassy notifications with all students in Italy.  All students based in Europe are encouraged to avoid traveling to the Italian regions in question. 

At this time, we also encourage all students to continue to monitor the news and to take the standard precautions to avoid illnessPlease see the World Health Organization (WHO) website for extensive information on the virus and tips for staying healthy. COVID-19 manifests with similar symptoms as the flu and in the majority of cases, healthy individuals recover after a brief period of sickness. 

Any changes to standard program functions, such as modifications of planned cultural events or excursions, will be communicated to students in the affected areas. 


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