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Rutgers will switch to online classes due to coronavirus outbreak

While there are currently no cases of coronavirus at Rutgers, the number of confirmed cases in New Jersey has been increasing. – Photo by Pixabay

University President Robert L. Barchi announced classes will be canceled for all three campuses beginning March 12 through the rest of spring break, according to a University-wide email. Classes were scheduled to resume March 23, but will now be conducted remotely until April 3 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The announcement comes after the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Jersey has risen to 15 and the passing away of one individual, according to NJ Advance Media

Barchi said there have not been any COVID-19 cases at Rutgers but the University has been tracking its spread, according to the email. 

“We have an imperative to do what we can to slow the spread of this serious virus and protect those who are most vulnerable,” Barchi said, according to the email. “This is a difficult and extraordinary situation, and I recognize that people throughout our community are concerned for their personal health and that of their families and friends.”

Barchi said in the email, instructors will be required to contact students with information on how classes will be conducted remotely by March 23. 

Students at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) will continue this week as scheduled, according to the email. Beginning March 16, RBHS classes with more than 15 participants will be held remotely. Clinical rotations and instruction will continue as scheduled.

Barchi said students living in residence halls should leave campus as soon as possible and are “strongly encouraged” to remain off campus until April 3, according to the email.

Students living in residence halls that were scheduled to close for spring break must leave by March 12 at 7 p.m., according to an email from Residence Life. Card access will be discontinued after this time.

All on-campus students, regardless of whether their halls were scheduled to remain open during spring break or if the student lives in another state, must return home while in-person instruction is suspended, according to the email. Accommodations will not be provided for students with internships, work or team activities. 

International students, students living in University family housing or those with prior permission from Residence Life will be allowed to remain in certain residence halls, according to the email. 

“In response to the continued spread of COVID-19, we are enacting practices based on the concept of social distancing. The goal is to decrease the number of situations requiring community members to be in groups while minimizing the time spent in proximity to each other,” according to Residence Life, according to the email. 

University spokesperson Dory Devlin said Rutgers facilities will be open, but transportation may be affected. 

“Facilities including dining halls, libraries, recreation centers and other services remain open. Bus service will be on a reduced schedule,” Devlin said. 

Events or meetings with more than 15 participants will be canceled from March 12 until April 15, Barchi said in the email. Organizers with events after that date should prepare to potentially postpone them and new non-essential events should not be scheduled. 

The Daily Targum previously reported the annual Rutgers University Dance Marathon is among the list of events canceled due to COVID-19.

There was no further notice on whether sporting events or practices will continue, according to the email. Barchi said athletic directors should follow the guidance set by their conferences, according to the email. 

Barchi said University offices, labs and services will remain open but faculty should use teleconference services in lieu of in-person meetings, according to the email. The University will be providing specific guidance for healthcare workers who come in contact with patients.

The current changes to University operations will be reviewed in the beginning of April, Barchi said, according to the email.

“We will evaluate the rapidly changing situation in the next few weeks to determine whether and when to return to in-person classes,” Devlin said. 

Other colleges in New Jersey announced plans to change their class schedules due to the outbreak, according to an article from NJ Advance Media

Stevens Institute of Technology will begin online classes March 11, according to the article. Farleigh Dickinson University, Kean University and Seton Hall University will begin remote instruction March 16. 

Montclair State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology and The College of New Jersey are all switching to online classes beginning March 23, according to the article. The Targum reported Princeton University will also be switching to an online format on the same date.

Rowan University officials extended spring break to further assess the situation, the Targum reported. Since then, Rider University has announced it will do the same, according to NJ Advance Media. 

Monmouth University canceled all classes this week after a student reported flu-like symptoms. They are currently being evaluated at Monmouth Medical Center, according to the article. 

As the outbreak continues statewide, the University’s COVID-19 task force will monitor the spread of the virus and update the Rutgers coronavirus website with information regularly, Barchi said in the email.

“We do not undertake any of these changes without careful consideration of the hardships and inconvenience that they may impose,” Barchi said, according to the email.

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