US university suspends in-person classes over virus concerns

By: AFP      Published: 12:15 AM, 7 Mar, 2020
US university suspends in-person classes over virus concerns

The University of Washington on Friday announced that it was moving all classes online as the western US state faces the country’s deadliest outbreak of the new coronavirus.

In an email to students, university president Ana Mari Cauce said the precautionary social distancing decision, taken in consultation with public health officials, aimed to “ensure the successful conclusion of the quarter for UW students.”

Beginning Monday, all classes and final exams will take place online for the remainder of winter quarter, which ends March 20.

“We plan to resume normal class operations when spring quarter begins March 30, pending public health guidance,” Cauce added.

The university, which has a student population of nearly 46,000, is located in Seattle, the area with the largest number of COVID-19 cases recorded so far in the United States.

School officials said Friday that they had learned a staff member had received a presumptive positive test for the virus and was in self-isolation at home.

They said the campus building where that person worked had been closed for appropriate cleaning.

Another school, Boston-based Northeastern University, which has a satellite campus in Seattle, also said its campus will move to online teaching on Monday.

In a statement on Friday, it urged all faculty and students—about 1,135 -- to stay home.

So far, all but one of the 12 coronavirus deaths recorded in the United States have been in Washington state, the majority of them residents of a nursing home in King County, which encompasses Seattle. One person has also died in neighboring Snohomish County.

Schools in both districts were ordered shut down earlier this week for up to 14 days.

“We are taking this strategic approach not because we think by doing so, we will stop an epidemic; we are simply trying to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Northshore School District Superintendent Michele Reid said in a letter to families.

“We are no longer able to provide quality instruction and maintain an environment that is safe.”