In the wake of two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, Michigan State suspended face-to-face instruction Wednesday and strongly encouraged students to return to their permanent places of residence.
“MSU is suspending face-to-face instruction in lectures, seminars and classroom settings and moving coursework to virtual instruction,” President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in an email. “This suspension of in-person classes will last until Monday, April 20 and we will reevaluate this decision on an ongoing basis, sharing additional updates or modifications as more information becomes available.”
Stanley also said the university learned the Ingham County Health Department is investigating and monitoring an individual linked to MSU's campus.
News of the disease and its impact on campus has evolved over time, from statements saying MSU's risk of exposure is unlikely to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declaring a state of emergency to the World Health Organization calling the coronavirus a pandemic.
MSU Physician David Weismantel issued a statement Jan. 24 about the recent outbreak of a coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China.
While MSU leaders recognized the concern, the risks of being exposed to this virus at MSU are unlikely, Daniel Olsen, MSU deputy spokesperson, said.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or MDHSS, approved testing for three new possible cases of the Novel Coronavirus — two in Washtenaw County and one in Macomb County.
“At MDHHS, we recognize the potential threat associated with this virus and are working to identify any suspect cases in Michigan,” Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health said in a press release.
Three possible cases of 2019 Novel Coronavirus in Michigan came back negative, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or MDHHS. A fourth possible case from Washtenaw County was sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, for testing.
State health officials were pleased with the results, Khaldun said in a press release.
MSU announced it would halt the next eight weeks of all non-essential university travel to China just as the World Health Organization, or WHO, declared the novel coronavirus a global health emergency.
At the February Board of Trustees meeting, MSU students spoke about the Wharton Center incident, the coronavirus and international student rights.
The university physician sent out an update on coronavirus to the MSU community suspending all university-sponsored travel to China, Singapore and Hong Kong through the end of July.
“This suspension takes effect today and includes all study abroad programs in those countries,” Weismantel said.
MSU announced the steps it would take to prevent the virus from reaching campus and how it would prepare for coronavirus scenarios.
According to Stanley’s email, a university committee is developing contingency plans for accommodating housing and educational needs of international students that may be unable to travel home for the summer, as well as for students expected to arrive next fall semester.
MSU announced it would assist students with a 14-day self-quarantine for anyone who traveled to China, Italy, Iran or South Korea, according to a letter to the community from Weismantel and Stanley.
The update echoed travel guidance from the CDC as students started returning from spring break.
Stanley sent an email to the community Tuesday announcing that all university-sponsored international travel and non-essential domestic travel would be cancelled.
The letter came just after universities across the country began canceling in-person classes.
“MSU is preparing for a variety of possible scenarios and campus units have plans and resources in place for a potential outbreak,” Stanley said in the email.
MSU began preparing a potential transition to online classes. Stanley touched on this issue of in-classroom learning in his most recent email to the MSU community.
“MSU has been preparing for pivoting the campus to online learning should that decision be required,” Stanley said.
Whitmer announced a state of emergency following two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan.
The two individuals who have COVID-19 are in the metro Detroit area. One is a female adult from Oakland County, who had traveled internationally, and one is a male adult from Wayne County, who had traveled domestically. Both are currently hospitalized.
The transition to virtual instruction happened at noon Wednesday.
During the period of virtual instruction, students can return to their permanent residence and work remotely, per Stanley's email. MSU is strongly recommending this because there are “advantages for social distancing.”
“But for those not able to go home, we will continue to fully support students in our residence halls and dining facilities,” Stanley wrote.