‘U’ moves classes online in response to coronavirus

Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - 1:53pm

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Alec Cohen/Daily

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect the cancellation of all summer study abroad programs on Thursday afternoon. All spring study abroad programs were canceled Wednesday afternoon.

The University of Michigan announced on Wednesday all classes on all three campuses will be held online beginning March 16 through the end of the semester, April 21, in response to the COVID-19 virus. Classes on Thursday and Friday will be canceled. However, the University will remain open, including dorms and dining halls.

In a statement shared on Twitter, University President Mark Schlissel wrote the changes are meant to maximize the safety of the campus communities.

“To protect the health and safety of our communities and minimize the spread of #COVID19, @UMich is making changes to classes, travel, study abroad and large events on our Ann Arbor, @UM_Dearborn and @UMFlint campuses,” Schlissel wrote.

Events expected to attract more than 100 people will also be canceled, including Honors Convocation. According to the statement, updates about plans for commencement will be provided when more information is available.

On-campus sporting events will be limited to parents and members of the press.

All spring and summer study abroad programs through the University will be canceled, given the severity of the outbreak. All other University international travel will also be suspended, except under rare circumstances requiring approval.

The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic Wednesday afternoon as the virus continues to spread globally.

The move to online classes comes a day after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency following the diagnosis of the first two cases of the COVID-19 virus in Michigan.

In a press conference Tuesday evening, Whitmer said she declared the state of emergency to maximize efforts and to assist local governments and officials in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re taking every step that we can to mitigate the virus spread and keep Michiganders safe,” Whitmer said in the press conference.

The two diagnosed cases in Michigan include a middle-aged Oakland County woman who has recently traveled internationally and a middle-aged Wayne County man who has recently traveled domestically.

Michigan Medicine announced Wednesday morning the hospital is treating one of the two confirmed Michigan coronavirus cases. 

According to the University’s webpage on COVID-19, individuals should wash their hands often with soap for 20 seconds, avoid close contact with those who are sick and to stay home when sick to prevent the spread of the virus.

Prior to the University’s decision to move classes online, universities across the state had already suspended in-person classes. Michigan State University suspended all face-to-face classes beginning at noon today, MSU President Samuel Stanley announced in an email to MSU students this morning. Online class instruction will last until April 20.

Central Michigan University also asked students not to return to campus after spring break and announced they will be moving their classes online through March 20. CMU will make a decision on whether to continue online classes on March 19.

Wayne State University announced Wednesday afternoon it will be extending spring break until March 23 to help plan for the transition to online classes.

Other universities across the United States have called off in-person classes this week, including Harvard University and Ohio State University.

As classes have been canceled across the country, some on social media have noted the sudden requests for students to leave campus may be harder to adjust to for students who may rely on university housing or meal plans. Additionally, they said some students may depend on work-study as a source of income. 

Others have noted students may not be able to go home because of transportation costs or travel restrictions, or because coronavirus may be more widespread in that location. 

Before the University announced the cancellation of classes, students on campus began creating a spreadsheet of resources to help students who may be disproportionately impacted by the changes.

Michigan Dining sent an email to MDining employees Wednesday afternoon letting students know they plan to continue having food available. 

The email stated MDining is increasing their sanitation processes – including the back of the house and some spaces leading up to the dining hall. Additionally, greeters are no longer swiping M-Cards and students swipe their own. 

Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. To stop the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control recommend people wash their hands often and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.

Daily News Editor Barbara Collins can be reached at bcolli@umich.edu. Daily News Editor Claire Hao can be reached at cmhao@umich.edu. Daily News Editor Emma Stein can be reached at enstein@umich.edu