DURHAM – It was just a couple weeks ago that schools, colleges, and local governments were anticipating efforts to mitigate the spread of corona virus in North Carolina, and now the first suspensions of face-to-face classes are beginning. Duke University announced Tuesday that on-campus classes will be temporarily canceled, and spring break will be extended for students and faculties.
The university released the following statement detailing the decision:
“[…] In the past few days, it has become clear that the spread of the virus continues across the country. Even though this is due to circumstances beyond our control, we can take steps now to minimize health and safety risks to Duke students, faculty, staff and the larger community, especially as students and faculty prepare to return from Spring Break.
To be sure, Duke University and Duke Health will remain open, and many of our operations and activities will continue, though with adjustments to working conditions. […]
First, all on-campus classes will be suspended until further notice, and we will transition to remote instruction (video and other forms of delivery) for all undergraduate, graduate and professional schools. In order to provide time for students and faculty make this transition, Undergraduate Spring Break will be extended to Sunday, March 22 and classes will resume on Monday, March 23. Graduate and professional schools will notify their students about their specific schedules.
Second, all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who are currently out of town for Spring Break should NOT return to the Duke campus if at all possible. We know there are undergraduate students who are on campus at the moment or who will need access to campus housing this week because of a variety of circumstances. Those students who need to return to campus, even briefly, must register with Student Affairs in advance so we can support a limited on-campus population. Students who do remain in campus housing or in the Durham area should be aware that access to many facilities and services – including dining, recreation and libraries – will be limited. In addition, student activities and gatherings will be curtailed.
This was not an easy decision to make and came only after reviewing the range of options available in light of the rapidly changing situation in North Carolina, and nationally. The goal is to minimize situations in which members of our community might be exposed to those who have COVID-19, and to protect our students, faculty and staff who might be at elevated risk. This approach is consistent with recommendations from public health officials, and also mirrors the actions taken by many universities across the country.
We know this presents a significant disruption to everyone’s studies, research and work, and also prompts many questions and concerns. By tomorrow (Wednesday), undergraduate, graduate and professional students, as well as faculty, will begin receiving specific information from the university, their schools and Student Affairs about plans for courses, information technology and support services. In addition, we are developing plans to provide residential students with a prorated reimbursement of any previously paid and unused housing and dining fees. Further information on those plans will be forthcoming. […]”
You can read the entire statement, including travel restrictions and plans for reimbursements, here. This is likely to be the first of many such closures as the spread of the virus within the United States engenders an equally infectious sense of abundant caution.
Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in response to the virus Tuesday, and non-essential state employees have been encouraged to work from home, if able, for the foreseeable future.
While the health outcomes of the virus itself is debated, the economic effects of the germs’ spread is becoming crystal clear as caution leads to major disruptions in economic activity. Both, the spread of the virus and reactions such as these closures, are likely going to get worse before they get better.