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CMU student returns to West Michigan from Italy study abroad program amid coronavirus fears

Central Michigan University is just one of dozens of American universities, bringing students home from their study abroad programs.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Students returned to West Michigan this week from Italy, after the Italian government and Central Michigan University canceled their study abroad programs, amid fears that the coronavirus is spreading across Europe. 

Doofanter Nyamor is a senior at Central Michigan University. Last weekend, she was notified that her study abroad program in northern Italy was canceled and she needed to book travel plans back to the U.S.

"Saturday morning going into Sunday we get the email like 'hey, things are going to be closing. It's unfortunate but we do have to cancel the program,'" said Nyamor. "So we were sent an email that we needed to be out of Italy by March 8, our travel insurance would be gone March 10 and that we need to have our flights figured out by the fourth."

Doofanter re-entered the United States through Newark Airport in New Jersey, arriving there on Tuesday afternoon. She says she was not asked any screening questions by customs at Newark Airport, nor was she checked for symptoms of the coronavirus. From Newark she flew to Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Doofanter says she wasn't checked or questioned in Grand Rapids either. 

"We left Bologna airport on Monday around 4 p.m., got into Lisbon with an 18 hour layover in Lisbon and then got into Newark," she said. "Customs asked 'Where were you? Italy. Why were you there? Study abroad.' They looked at my visa and said 'You're good.' There was no screening no questions if I had been in the region at all."

Central Michigan University emailed students returning to the United States, mandating a 14-day self-quarantine before they can return to campus. At that point Doofanter says it was pretty stressful, because despite no cases of the coronavirus were reported in the city where she was staying in Italy, she had traveled through four different airports to get home. 

Credit: Doofanter Nyamor
Study Abroad students from CMU traveling home from Italy

Doofanter knew she needed to be tested for the virus. Her dad suffers from health issues and her mom works at the Grand Rapids home for Veterans. 

"My friend picked me up from the airport as my dad has a lot of health issues, including open heart surgery, cancer, and malaria," said Nyamor. "And my mom works for the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, so if I per chance picked up anything, that was putting my father at risk and my mom could easily transfer that to patients that are already at high risk. So I've been at my parents' other house in East Grand Rapids."

Doofanter's mother Ashi Nyamor expressed to 13 ON YOUR SIDE her frustration with the airport for not screening passengers, especially young college students returning to the U.S from high risk countries, who do not recognize the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak.  

"Here is my biggest concern: It's not so much her there are no clear guidelines given to any one of them," said Ashi. "First of all, they were involuntarily evacuated from Italy, by the government. But once they got into the States, they were just let back into the States. They just let them loose. They should at least have a sheet of paper with all guidelines and instructions handed to them. I think that was irresponsible, very irresponsible." 

Right now there is no clear protocol for people returning from high risk regions. Guidelines on the CDC website leave it up to individuals to self-quarantine, and to contact their doctor if they start feeling sick. 

Last night Doofanter was tested at the emergency room and she did end up going to Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital. She expects to find out the results Saturday. 

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