Go back

US universities step up coronavirus response

More teaching shifts online as Covid-19 cases continue to climb

Stanford has joined two universities in the state of Washington in moving teaching online in response to the coronavirus, as institutions across the United States prepare for and respond to Covid-19 cases.

On 6 March the University of Washington became the first major higher education institution in the United States to stop face-to-face teaching due to the coronavirus. “As a way to increase precautionary health measures, such as social distancing…as of March 9, 2020, classes and finals will not be held in person for the remainder of winter quarter, which ends March 20,” the university said.

The same day, Stanford University (pictured) took a similar move, saying that “to the extent feasible, we will be moving classes to online formats in place of in-person instruction”.

Two days later, Washington State University said classes and exams at its Everett site in Snohomish County would shift online until 13 March, with all staff asked to prepare to move in-person classes online “should the need arise on other campuses”.

“WSU Everett has not seen any cases of Covid-19 among its students, faculty or staff,” said the university in an 8 March statement. “However, members of nearby Everett Community College have been exposed to the illness and Snohomish County has declared a state of emergency due to Covid-19.”

As of 7 March, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported 164 Covid-19 cases and 11 deaths from the disease across 19 states.

Universities across the country are struggling with how to respond to the outbreak, which has forced institutions in Italy, Iran and China to close or move teaching online and triggered cancellations of academic meetings around the globe.

In New York, Syracuse University cancelled all spring break study abroad programmes and advised staff and students “to consider cancelling any non-essential international travel and to limit or postpone domestic air travel”.

Harvard has prohibited all university-related international travel and non-essential domestic air travel until “at least” 30 April, and “strongly discouraged” personal international travel.

On the other side of the lower 48, the University of California institutions remain open for teaching, while three students at UCLA are being tested for Covid-19. But staff have been urged to look into shifting teaching online, should it become necessary.