Major universities close classrooms amid coronavirus outbreak

The first major American universities to close classroom doors in response to the coronavirus outbreak are happening in California and Washington, the state with the most deaths from COVID-19.

The University of Washington informed its 55,000 students Friday that it was shutting down in-person classes and finals starting Monday as it also announced a staff member "who works in the Roosevelt Commons East building" tested positive for the virus and is in "self-isolation at home," according to UW News.

In a similar move, Stanford University, in the heart of Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, moved from in-person classes to online where possible after two students are in self-isolation due to "possible exposure" to the virus, Provost Persis Drell wrote to students Friday.

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While dining halls, dorms, and athletic facilities remain open, UW's in-person classes will be closed through the end of the quarter, March 20, across all three campuses: Bothell, Tacoma, and Seattle, the city where the first death from the virus occurred.

"We plan to resume normal class operations when spring quarter begins March 30, pending public health guidance," UW President Ana Mari Cauce wrote to students.

She thanked students for resisting panic after 28,000 signed a Change.org petition calling for UW to close its Seattle campus.

"The novel coronavirus is not the first challenge this region, or our university, has faced," Cauce urged. "It will not be the last. In its 158-year history, the UW has endured two world wars, a depression and other crises that have tested our resilience and our compassion."

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Similarly, Seattle University and Lake Washington Institute of Technology, located outside Seattle, both announced they are moving to virtual classes as well. On Thursday, Everett Community, outside Seattle, closed and its president announced a student tested positive for the virus.

In New York, Yeshiva University’s president announced Wednesday that a student had tested positive for Covid-19 and classes would be canceled at their Washington Heights and Midtown Campuses until after March 10.

Colleges and universities were first faced with the coronavirus overseas, closing campuses and study-abroad programs, but now that the virus is spreading in the states, the Evergreen State is taking the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, with 79 of the country's 253 confirmed coronavirus cases and 13 deaths, with another in California and two in Florida.

Jean E. Chin, who leads an American College Health Association task force on coronavirus, said campuses are especially vulnerable for the communal living.

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“We all know how college students are,” Chin told the Washington Post. “They share stuff. They share secretions. They share drinks. They share phones. They share stuff.”

With spring break season approaching, university officials are preparing for measures that may require mass student quarantines and tracking students' travel plans.