University of Minnesota suspends in-person instruction amid coronavirus concerns

(University of Minnesota/@UMNews)

The University of Minnesota is implementing changes due to concerns over COVID-19. Though there are no known cases of COVID-19 in the university, officials are taking precautionary measures.

In an email to students and staff Wednesday, officials said they are suspending in-person instruction, including field experiences and clinicals, across the five campuses and are moving to online, or alternative, instruction. Students on the Morris and Crookston campuses will have in-person classes through this Friday, March 13.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Minnesota has confirmed 5 coronavirus cases in the state.

This also means that spring break will be extended on the Duluth, Rochester and Twin Cities campuses until Wednesday, March 18. Students will resume classes, through online or alternative instruction, on March 18.

Following this break, as well as spring break on the Crookston and Morris campuses, scheduled for next week (March 16-20), all students on all campuses will be taught virtually through at least Wednesday, April 1.

"As we evaluate these measures on an ongoing basis, we will let you know as soon as possible if we extend the online-only instruction period," University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel wrote.

For classes that cannot be taught online, the instructor will contact students with further information.

In the meantime, residence halls, dining services and other student services will continue. All University of Minnesota campuses will continue normal operations, and all employees of the university are expected to report for work as standard.

All non-essential international and domestic travel by faculty, staff and students for university purposes is prohibited, regardless of funding source. Staff travel between campuses for essential operations is still permitted. The restrictions cover travel occurring March 16 to April 30. 

Currently, the only restrictions on education abroad programs are for spring, May term and summer programs in CDC Level 3 advisory countries. As of today, those include China, South Korea, Iran and Italy.

"Due to COVID-19, we find ourselves responding to unique challenges that require innovative solutions. I recognize that our responsive actions, including those I’m announcing today, may raise questions for many of you. While we do not have all of the answers at this moment, please know that we are working around the clock to find answers and solutions," Gabel wrote.

Other colleges, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Iowa State and the University of Iowa have also made changes.

The Minnesota Department of Health stressed the importance of all Minnesotans continuing to do those things that can limit the spread of the coronavirus:
•    Stay home and away from others if you are sick.
•    Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue.
•    Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water.
•    Avoid touching your face throughout the day.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza is spread. It can also spread when people touch surfaces that have been contaminated by an infected person and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider immediately. For more information from the CDC, click here.

More information about coronavirus can be found on MDH’s Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website. MDH has set up a COVID-19 public hotline that is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The hotline number is 651-201-3920.