Mar 9, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus: Columbia University the latest to cancel in-person classes

Columbia University's Low Memorial Library in New York City. Photo: James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images


Columbia University announced Sunday night it canceled classes for Monday and Tuesday and plans to hold remote lessons for the rest of the week after a member of its community was quarantined following exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: The Ivy League school is the latest educational institution to suspend in-person classes and move studying online in response to the outbreak as the virus continues to spread across the U.S., which now has more than 500 cases, per data from Johns Hopkins and state health departments.

What they're saying: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN earlier Sunday that it was time to think about canceling large gatherings and closing schools "to prevent more deaths" as the U.S. moves into a "mitigation phase."

The big picture: Schools across Washington state, one of the areas worst hit by the virus, began to close at the start of this month. The University of Washington announced Friday it was moving classes online in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. Seattle University and Northeastern's Seattle campus have also moved to remote classes.

  • In New York, Barnard College, which is affiliated with Columbia University, followed Columbia's measures and announced it was switching to remote classes.
    • In Westchester County, New York, Scarsdale Public Schools said Sunday after a middle school faculty member tested positive for the virus it was closing all district schools March 9–18 for "cleaning, progress monitoring, and social-distancing."
  • In California, Stanford University canceled in-person classes for two weeks starting Monday after a faculty member tested positive for the virus and two students self-isolated over possible exposures, though they displayed no symptoms.
  • In Texas, Rice University in Houston announced Sunday it had canceled in-person classes for the week after an employee tested positive.

Elsewhere in the U.S., schools and colleges including Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and the University of California, Los Angeles have stepped up measures to combat the threat of the virus.

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Stanford University and the University of Washington are among the first colleges in the U.S. to suspend in-person classes as the novel coronavirus spreads in California, Washington state and beyond.

The big picture: Universities are mobilizing emergency planning teams to determine what shutdowns could look like, as more Americans test positive for the coronavirus, The New York Times reports. Some schools have told students to prepare for a shutdown if a faculty member or student becomes infected.

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Virus-driven shift to online classes brings home the digital divide

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Why it matters: The "digital divide" between internet access haves and have-nots has long been an abstract public-policy debating point, but this public health crisis is bringing the issue home in a concrete way.

Coronavirus moves China's classes online, and censors are watching

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Zoom in: The video platforms being used are closely monitored by censors, and some teachers are finding their lessons unceremoniously ended when they hit on controversial topics, the AP reports.

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