Rome Program 2021 COVID-19 Operations Plan

Updated 3/24/2021

All faculty & staff involved in the University of Arkansas Rome Program are enthusiastic about the possibility of students returning to Rome. The information outlined below is intended to be an overview of the plan to receive students in Italy and serve our students and faculty in the time of COVID-19. The initiatives detailed in this document have been set in place to promote a safe study and work environment for the students, faculty, and staff of our center. Our goal in presenting this information is to be comprehensive, knowing however that the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, including travel policies, and operating regulations are subject to constant change.

For a quick glance at Frequently Asked Questions, please scroll to the bottom of this page!

Travel

Prior to Travel to Rome

It is strongly recommended that students self-quarantine for 14 days prior to the arrival date to minimize the likelihood of exposure to COVID-19, thereby minimizing potential impact to travel.

Arrival in Rome

According to the current situation, Feb 2021, students studying in Rome will be exempt from the 14-day self-isolation policy if they follow specific procedures to travel on ‘covid-tested’ flights through designated airlines. These groups will require COVID-19 testing prior to travel and upon arrival in Fiumicino Airport in Rome. Students will receive specific directed information about booking flights to maintain compliance with this policy. Any other form of independent travel to Italy (Rome), will result in the student being required to self-isolate for 14 days. The Rome Center will allow the students to arrive within a five-day period prior to the start of the program to expand the availability of COVID-tested/quarantine exempt travel.

5 Day Quarantine on entry into Italy

To ensure the safety of students and faculty living and studying together in close quarters, all students will complete a 5-day self-quarantine period upon entry to Rome. The quarantine will take place in the apartment where the student will be residing for the duration of the program with their housemates. At the end of the 5-day period, students will be re-tested for COVID-19 and will start their in-person orientation once they have received their negative test result. During this period students will start online orientation and will be able to join virtual activities organized by the Rome Center. The Rome Center will provide students with information on local grocery and meal delivery options that students can coordinate for themselves.

14 Day Quarantine on arrival- (*if required)

If travelers do not, or cannot, follow the procedures to travel to Italy through quarantine-exempt means, the Italian government will require 14-day isolation upon arrival. These participants will be housed separately and will be able to continue orientation and classwork remotely.

If students test positive upon arrival in Fiumicino, they will be required by local authorities to isolate in accordance with local health department guidelines. The Rome Center will work with these students on the best arrangements possible to remain supported by local staff.

Rome Center Operations

Rome Center

The Rome Center is located inside the historic Palazzo Taverna, where we occupy two separate areas: Empire Hall and Gabrielli Hall. These spaces have been re-arranged and reallocated in accordance with local legislation following the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures are in compliance with the DPCM Sept 7th 2020 annex 22 & DPCM Oct 24th 2020 annex 18, which are the current official state decrees for Universities operating in Italy.

The operating hours where students can enter and use the facilities of the Rome Center will be governed by the following policy:

  • The Rome Center is open seven days a week
  • Hours: 8:00am until 7:30pm (Mon – Fri)
  • Hours: 10:30am until 5:30pm (Sat – Sun)
  • on-call 24/7 for emergencies

Student MUST leave the premises at the closing times to allow proper sanitation of the building.

Orientations

Pre-Departure Orientation will be held regularly prior to the students leaving the US, in close coordination with the U of A Study Abroad Office. Resources, including reference documents, links, discussion groups, etc will be available through a Blackboard site managed by Student Services Staff & UA Study Abroad Staff. Synchronous meetings will be held through appropriate platforms and recorded for review. Pre-Travel Orientation objectives include:

  • Students will prepare for Travel in COVID context
  • Students will understand Arrival & Entry Requirements for Italy
  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of local COVID context in Italy, including mask wearing, shopping and dining, and relevant local laws (including fines for non compliance).
  • Students will learn about their destination and prepare to acculturate to Rome

On-site Orientation will begin during students’ 5-day quarantine upon arrival and will continue after quarantine as students become acquainted with their neighborhood services in Rome. Orientation on site will introduce Rome Center facilities, faculty, and staff. Students will meet local health practitioners and be oriented to life in Rome with special attention to local COVID procedures. Orientation will help students navigate new realities of travel and life in a major European city, including important tips for grocery shopping, spending money, and getting around the city in compliance with local COVID-19 guidelines. Rome Center staff will communicate any changes to local circumstances and provide assistance to students throughout their time in Rome.

Daily Checks on Body Temperature and PPE

Students will enter through the student gate and will need to sign in prior to starting classes. All classes, including those which have a field trip will start from Palazzo Taverna. Everyone entering the Rome Center or participating in class activities outside Palazzo Taverna will sign-in everyday, verifying their temperature, as well as proper face mask use and hand hygiene.

Classroom Flexibility & Modes of instruction

Classrooms will be utilized in such a way as to create homogeneous groups, where the same students are using the spaces and being seated at the same desks/seats. While students are expected to attend classes in person daily, classes will also be conducted in a way that allows seamless transition between an online, remote learning, style of teaching should a student or students need to quarantine for a period from 48hrs up to 2 weeks.

This flexibility will allow for academic continuity should we need to carry out a COVID-19 test on a student or should a student test positive for COVID-19. While courses will be recorded to the extent possible, quarantined or isolated students will be able to connect remotely and continue their studies remotely.

Social Distancing

The Rome Center has been reconfigured to allow for students to be able to adhere to social distancing measures. Students will be assigned a desk, or seat, for each class, which they will need to utilize throughout the program. A seating chart will be posted at the entrance to each classroom. Classes will be staggered to reduce the possibility of large groups congregating at the entrance and to limit the amount of people moving around the center at any given time.

Cleaning Classrooms & Common Spaces

Rome Center classrooms and common spaces, including toilets and the kitchenette will be cleaned daily, and an additional deep sanitization will be performed once a week. All Rome Center users (staff, faculty, and students) will be asked to collaborate in keeping all common areas clean. Cleaning products will be available for individuals to sanitize their individual spaces before and after use. High touch surfaces like vending machines should be sanitized by each person after each use.

Hand sanitizers will be posted next to the Rome Center entrances and inside all classrooms. Students are required to use the sanitizers as they enter from outside the center and are encouraged to use the machines as they see fit throughout the day. All hand sanitizers, most taps and hand dryers have been automated to minimize the need for students to touch multiple surfaces.

Signage

Similar to the Fayetteville campus, signage will be posted around the center to remind all community members to maintain best practices for maintaining personal and community health:

  • COVID-19 Symptom Reminder
  • Correct ways to-
    • Wash hands
    • Wear a mask
    • Register for the days class
  • How to report when you get sick
  • How to contact both doctors
  • Correct use of the trash cans or recycling bins
  • What happens if you need to get a COVID-19 test

Housing

The Rome Center will provide the students with accommodation for the duration of the program. Apartments in historic neighborhoods in walking distance of Palazzo Taverna will include basic furnishings, bed linens and towels, Wi-Fi access, washing machines, and a local telephone. In consideration of COVID-19, apartments will be limited to 4-person occupancy, with two double bedrooms and 2 bathrooms when possible. General weekly cleaning will include weekly disinfection of common spaces.

No visitors will be permitted in housing at any time. This includes friends or family members who may be visiting. Students should respect their housemates as part of their household ‘bubble’ and practice social distancing and wear masks when around others. Nuclear family members visiting from home or close friends on the program living in other households should be included in social distancing.

Students will have a contactless thermometer in their apartment and will be asked to test themselves whenever they feel ill. Students must communicate immediately with the Student Coordinator when the thermometer shows a reading over 99.5F (37.5C). Rome Center staff will help students arrange appointments with doctors for testing and will facilitate contact tracing as necessary among the Rome Program community.

Roommates should make every effort to communicate openly about their risk tolerance and concerns about the behaviors of fellow roommates. All students will complete a roommate agreement and will be accountable to their fellow household members for their behavior relevant to social distancing & maintaining health precautions. UARC reserves the right to request that a student wear a mask in their housing for a two-week period. Rome Center Student Services staff is available on-site to help mitigate roommate conflict. All students are subject to the Study Abroad Code of Conduct which outlines expectations for comportment and behavior in the group. Violating the Code of Conduct is subject to punishment up to and including program expulsion. All students in Rome are still subject to the University Code of Student Life.

The Rome Center reserves the right to move students from their original apartment, in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak in our student community. Positive cases or close contacts in our community may result in the need to move students in order to maintain quarantine and isolation protocol between positive students, close contacts, and other community members.

Safety Guidelines and Requirements

Face Coverings- indoors/outdoors

According to the current Italian Legislation, people living in Italy are required to wear a mask outside of their domicile. Students will need to follow this directive. Police regulate the adherence to the face covering rule, and fines can be issued by Italian Police for non-compliance.

Wearing of masks inside Rome Center facilities in Palazzo Taverna

Students will be required to wear a mask at all the times and can only remove them to eat and drink. Students with a pre-assigned desk will be required to eat their lunch at their desk. Students without a pre-assigned desk will be required to respect the 1.5-meter social distancing rule when having lunch in one of the student spaces or vacant classrooms.

Students will need to follow the directions of the faculty or Rome Center Staff, when on field trips, as they will be charged with informing the student of if/and when it is safe to remove their masks.

Access to Medical & Mental Health Treatment

Medical Health Access

An Italian physician will meet with the students to discuss the importance of looking after their physical health whilst on the program. Local physicians who work frequently with English-speaking US students and are in-network with student health insurance are able to see students for any health concern. Students will be enrolled in the National Health System and will receive the “tessera sanitaria”, “Health Card”, which entitles the bearer to the same medical/health benefits of Italian citizens. The cost will be embedded in the program fee.

The Health card will allow our students to:

  • Receive the COVID-19 rapid test at the nearest Pharmacy (fixed fee of €22, ~USD$25)
  • Schedule a PCR Test with the closest regionally authorized testing center, free of charge
  • Enjoy all the services provided by the National Health System

Mental Health Access

The Rome Center collaborates with mental health professionals, who will meet with the students in the first week of orientation and will be available throughout the program to meet with students, either as a group or on an individual basis. Some of the costs associated with this work will be covered by the Rome Center.

Students might incur additional costs, which will be partly offset by their CISI travel insurance, should they need extra one on one sessions with the health professional.

COVID-19: Testing, Reporting, Tracing & Quarantine

Testing for International Travel

In accordance with requirements for international travelers to enter Italy and the US, students, staff and faculty will be tested at the following milestone points of the term:

  • Prior to departing the US (within 48 hours of travel)
  • On arrival at Fiumicino airport (rapid test)
  • Prior to return to the US (within 72 hours of travel)

Weekly Testing

Students entering the U of A Rome Center’s summer program will be tested weekly to ensure that any potential asymptomatic students are located before the community at large can be put at risk. The Rome Center will purchase the tests and a registered nurse will be engaged to administer the tests directly at the Rome Center’s headquarters in Palazzo Taverna.

Appointments for Testing

The Antigen Test (Rapid Test) can be done without an appointment at certain pharmacies that have been equipped to administer the service. The list of the closest pharmacies will be shared with the students on arrival. Students will need to show their National Health Card (Tessera Sanitaria) to have access to this service.

The Molecular Test (PCR Test) must be reserved through the region Lazio website, and requires an official document released by a General Practitioner. Students will have access to a General Practitioner thanks to their National Health Card. The Rome Center will provide assistance throughout this process.

The Antibody Test (Blood Test) can be obtained at several authorized clinics, after scheduling an appointment with a doctor’s request. The Rome Center will provide assistance throughout this process.

Experiencing Symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19. Students need to have a clear understanding of what the symptoms are and under what conditions we would step in and have a test done.

Reporting Process

Students will need to report any changes in their health condition that have been flagged as pre-cursors to someone who might have contracted COVID-19, or report if they believe they have been exposed to COVID-19. Reporting will take place through the office of the student coordinator, who serves as the COVID Manager, and who will be in charge of:

  • Notifying the Rome Center Director in his capacity as COVID Manager
  • Notifying the student’s teachers, so that their absence is noted
  • Contacting the doctor so that testing can take place

If a student, faculty, or staff tests positive for COVID-19, the COVID Manager will report the positive case through the U of A’s self-reporting form. The Study Abroad Office in Fayetteville will also be notified.

Students are encouraged to communicate with their loved ones and make sure their families know about their current health condition. If a student requires additional medical treatment, including hospitalization, emergency contacts of the student may be notified.

On a bi-weekly basis, emergency contact of program participants will receive updates about the general well-being of Rome Center community members. The Office of STudy Abroad is available to answer questions and facilitate communication with the Rome Center as appropriate.

Isolation Procedure for possible Covid-19 cases

Students exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 (including but not limited to fever) will work with Rome Center staff to obtain a rapid test at the nearest available pharmacy or testing facility. Roommates and other close contacts of the student will be immediately asked to quarantine- leaving class if necessary- until the symptomatic student’s results are available.

If the Rapid Test of the sick student comes back Positive for COVID 19, housing will be arranged for the student in appropriate accommodations for isolation from roommates and the community. Students in close contact with positive cases will be tested. Arrangements will be made for appropriately distanced quarantine housing for program participants who are close contacts with known COVID cases.

UARC will make every effort to protect the confidentiality of a student diagnosed with COVID-19, but as a publich health matter, staff may conduct contact tracing with local contact tracers. the UARC COVID manager may need to disclose the student’s name to program faculty and staff, as well as other students who may have had some form of close contact with the sick student.

Students and faculty visiting Rome will be instructed to maintain a ‘COVID-bag’ with basic necessities to retrieve in case isolation/quarantine/hospitalization requires them to relocate. Any decision a student makes to seek their own accommodations outside UARC housing will be entirely at the students’ own discretion and expense.

Insurance policies included in the program fee do not cover the cost of early departures home, even if quarantine and/or shelter-in-place policies are enacted. Should a participant choose to travel home early due to local circumstances, all related expenses would be their responsibility. If local requirements for quarantine or shelter-in-place necessitate that a participant stay beyond the established end date of the program, UARC will extend housing contracts wherever possible, but any additional costs associated with extra days will be the responsibility of the participant.

Key Terms

Quarantine is a precautionary measure that can, in most situations, be done in a group. Quarantine measures usually involve individuals who are known close contacts with positive or suspected positive cases. These persons should avoid contact with others and follow local health department (or equivalent) guidelines for days in quarantine, testing protocol, etc.

Isolation becomes necessary when an individual tests positive. Those in close contact with the positive individual will quarantine, while the positive student ill be isolated according to local requirements.

Calendar, Travel, and Activities

Calendar

The University of Arkansas Rome Center will give students the official program calendar during the onsite orientation in Rome. The Rome Center might need to alter the calendar subject to changes in Italian Legislation or should issues involving the pandemic arise. Students will be notified in real time of all changes that need to be made to the official calendar.

Independent Travel

Due to the persistence of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the Italian government and European countries are imposing strong limitations on tourism. In Italy, the country has adopted a regional plan based on the infection rate of each region, whereby the free circulation of peoples between the different areas of the country can be limited (or prohibited) by the government on a weekly basis. Therefore, the Rome Center recommends that students wait until they arrive to Rome, and to consult with our center, before making any travel plans or reservations.

The Rome Center Program strongly discourages students from making independent travel plans that include overnight stays in other regions of Italy or other countries. With this in mind, social and cultural activities will be available and recommended within Rome- there is more than you could possibly see and do in the city in a length of a study abroad program!

In regard to travel outside of Rome, either to other regions of Italy or other countries, students must be aware of all the limitations imposed the potential host countries government with regards to tourists, which may include mandatory quarantine upon arrival. Students who choose not to heed the strong discouragement of independent travel may be subject to quarantine or isolation specific to the travel destination and unable to return to Rome or to courses. Students might find themselves either stuck in a foreign country or needing to go through quarantine on return, should the virus break out at their travel destination. Any costs incurred by this decision would be at the student’s own expense.

Students who leave Rome will need to have a rapid COVID-19 test on their return before being allowed to rejoin the student community.

School Trips

If permitted by the Italian Authorities, the Rome Center will organize one, or more, multi-day school trips to visit other regions of the country. Transportation for these trips will be organized with private bus companies in compliance with safety protocols enforced by the Italian law. Students will have to observe all the rules set down for their safety. Accompanying staff/faculty will be responsible to make sure that the students are following the rules.

One-day Regional Didactic Tours

If permitted by the Italian Authorities, the Rome Center will organize multiple one-day regional didactic tours to explore the surroundings of Rome and the region of Lazio. Transportation for these trips might involve the use of public transportation if this does not compromise the safety of our students.

Social Activities

If permitted by the Italian Authorities, the Rome Center will organize activities throughout the week which allow students to participate in social activities, in safe and controlled environments. This will include opportunities for student to explore Rome and deepen their engagement with local culture through language, food, and sport. Game nights and movie nights at the Rome Center will also seek to keep students engaged in social, if socially-distanced, activities.

Sick Leave Policy & Procedure: Student, Faculty and Staff

For Students

Students will work with the Student Services coordinator in Rome to access testing, treatment, and other care as needed from Italian physicians. The student services coordinator will work with students and faculty to identify students who will be absent from class or participating remotely.

For faculty / Staff

Faculty will continue with their class should they need to take time for sickness as much as possible. When the level of sickness is negates their ability to successfully complete the course work, students will either be followed by another faculty member where possible or will be given a project to complete until the faculty member has recovered from their illness.

Staff will follow their normal procedure for sick leave.

Frequently Asked Questions

General

YES, face coverings are required in all public places, even on the sidewalk and outdoors. Individuals caught without proper face coverings can be fined.

Under current travel restrictions, students with appropriate documentation can enter Italy. Limited COVID-tested flights are available through Delta Airlines and Alitalia that will allow travelers to bypass the 14-day quarantine requirements. The Office of Study Abroad and Rome Center continue to review the latest updates on international travel from relevant authorities, including US and Italian State departments, and professional organizations like NAFSA, the Forum on Education Abroad, and AACUPI.

Wait until you receive specific instructions from the Office of Study Abroad. All confirmed students will receive very specific information about booking travel for Rome Center programs. Students and families should wait until these details are confirmed to book airfare.

Italian COVID restrictions are regulated at the national level and are reviewed and adjusted much more frequently than Americans might expect. The Italian Ministry of Health identifies Italy's regions with colors (white, yellow, orange, red, and dark red) that correspond to designated levels of services open and mobility available. The most reliable data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation all anticipate continued decline in positive case numbers that would correspond to increased services and access to open mobility in Italy as we begin to send students. 

Free travel around Italy and Europe will be much more restricted through 2021-2022. Italy’s travel restrictions are changing and dynamic, governing mobility between municipalities, regions (similar to US states) and the country itself. While Italy is Schengen State, travel availability between different countries is also subject to quarantine ordinances and changing circumstances. Students should not make any weekend travel plans before the program starts.

At this time, there are no requirements for COVID vaccination for travel into any country or jurisdiction, including Italy. All travelers must follow the same directives for COVID testing, quarantine and isolation. 

Students living in congregate housing arrangements are eligible to be vaccinated as part of Arkansas's 1-C priority group, which became eligible for vaccination on March 15, 2020. Others may have access to vaccinations based on other factors, including their employment status and personal health factors. Students studying abroad are encouraged to make appointments with Pat Walker Health Center to get vaccinated. 

Life in Rome

See our COVID Operations plan for more on the arrangements for housing in Rome. Students will have the opportunity to identify roommate preferences and will complete a “house contract” for shared housing space and behavior. Students living together constitute a COVID ‘bubble’ and, as such, are directly responsible for the health of others in shared accommodations.

Students live in apartments contracted for student housing, located across historic neighborhoods in close proximity to the Rome Center. These are not strictly student buildings- in fact, students will live alongside locals. Enhanced cleaning and sanitation will be offered in the apartments and students are encouraged to maintain good personal habits whenever coming and going.

See details in the Covid Reopening plan above. In 2021, apartments will have lower max occupancy and enhanced cleaning procedures. Students will have extra directives for keeping their personal space clean and respecting others in their housing space.

All housing has access to Wi-Fi and faculty are making plans to continue course lectures and activities synchronously and asynchronously

Quarantine & Isolation

Students who test positive for COVID-19 will be housed in appropriate isolation quarters until they are medically cleared to rejoin the group. Isolation housing can take multiple forms, including special housing set aside for sick students, co-habitation with other students who test positive, or even hotel stay arranged by the Rome Center.

Housing is guaranteed until the end date of the program. Students who are unable to travel home on schedule because of COVID-19 infection will receive assistance on extending lodging arrangements, at their own expense.

Students at the Rome Center will have access to immediate testing and medical assistance. Students identified as close contacts will be quarantined following guidance of local health authorities, which will include enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures in program housing.

The Rome Center housing agreement covers appropriate accommodations during the program dates. Students who may have to quarantine or isolate beyond the program dates may have to pay for extended housing in Rome until they are able to leave Italy.

We hope that all members of our community will comply with health directives. It will take everyone doing their part to protect our community. The student, who is alleged to have violated the directives of quarantine or isolation regulations, will be referred to the Office of Student Standards and Conduct (OSSC). The OSSC and the Study Abroad Code of Conduct both allow the University to take immediate action to remove students from university housing and expel them from study abroad (early return home).

Sanitation & Safety

Yes. Cleaning is very important. Increased cleaning in Palazzo Taverna facilities, and student housing includes enhanced sanitation efforts. High touch surfaces at the Rome Center will be cleaned and sanitized daily. Supplies for cleaning personal spaces in classrooms and study spaces will also be available.

Yes, the Rome center is equipped with hand sanitizer stations throughout the facility. Most faucets have been converted to touchless use.

Summer students will have apartments with air conditioning this year. Many class visits and student activities will take place outdoors. In general, Italian buildings rely much more on open ventilation of buildings and residences.

Money

Costs and inclusions vary by program, please reference program budgets for each program on the HogsAbroad site. Participants should carefully review the financial agreement for the program before signing, taking special note of circumstances for cancellation and program adjustments.

Yes! Study Abroad constitutes an academic cost of attendance and is eligible for scholarships and financial aid. Many opportunities have extended deadlines. Browse the Study Abroad Scholarships Page or contact the Study Abroad Office for more information.

COVID brings extra considerations about carrying cash and spending money abroad. As always, students need to travel with multiple ways of accessing money- Euro cash in hand before they board flights, debit cards to withdraw cash/spend with local vendors, credit cards to access emergency funds in case of accident, etc. With the increased use of apps for food ordering, and increased social distancing measures that may cause increased reliance on credit over cash, travelers should consider credit cards more carefully with regards to international use, transaction fees, currency conversion, etc.

Trip cancellation insurance with “Cancel for Any Reason” (CFAR) is important to purchase due to the fluid and unpredictable impact of the pandemic on international travel, including possible disruption upon boarding an international flight should your COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel come back positive, changing border entry requirements, etc. CFAR policies should be purchased within 21 days of paying the non-recoverable deposit. Recommended resources include Cultural Insurance Services or Daun Flynn at the Travel Depot, 479-444-3366, dlflynn@gmail.com.

Considerations for Fay Jones Students

Degree requirements for study abroad have not changed. Students should talk to their academic advisors & department chairs for more information.

Given global travel considerations surrounding the pandemic, The International Education Advisory Council (IEAC) continues to review travel circumstances on a term-by-term basis. The Study Abroad Office Coronavirus Page includes updates on upcoming travel decisions as they are made. At the time of this writing, Summer 2021 programs have been approved for B.ARCH and B.LARC majors. All other programs are pending final approval.