College suspends on campus classes until April 3 in response to COVID-19 outbreak

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ETHAN BROWN / THE FLAT HAT

Wednesday, March 11, the College of William and Mary announced that emergency interim procedures will be implemented until April 3 in response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. In a campus wide email, College President Katherine Rowe stated that on campus classes will be suspended until April 3, and that classes will transition to an online format starting Monday, March 23.

Rowe’s administrative decision has come after weeks of coronavirus’s intensifying spread within the United States. The novel virus has already prompted the evacuation of College students pursuing study abroad programs in Asia and Europe and will now impact on-campus activities directly for the first time, as Rowe recommended that students not currently on campus stay away from Williamsburg until the interim protocols elapse.

The update came in an email sent to students, faculty and staff at 5 p.m. Wednesday, one of 11 official notifications about the outbreak since January. Monday, March 9, community members received an email from Emergency Management Chair Sam Jones ’75 M.B.A. ’80 stating the discovery of three presumptive COVID-19 cases in Northern Virginia. In that email, Jones specified that the emergency management team and College President Katherine Rowe’s presidential cabinet would provide supplementary information by Wednesday.

Shortly after Monday’s email, additional cases emerged in Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads area Tuesday, March 10, signifying the virus’s spread throughout the state and cementing its potential threat to Williamsburg and the College.

Multiple other Virginia universities announced similar disease contingency plans earlier Wednesday, including the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and James Madison University. UVA announced that it would suspend on campus classes until at least April 5, and encouraged students currently on spring break to stay at home rather than returning to Charlottesville. UVA’s classes will transition online starting Thursday, March 19. JMU also suspended on campus classes until April 5, according to an administrative press release issued Wednesday afternoon.

A day after the College notified community members about interim protocols, Jones sent a follow up email Thursday, March 12 informing students and staff about the possible COVID-19 exposure of an employee in the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. This employee is reportedly self-quarantining and asymptomatic, though the College announced supplementary actions to ensure campus safety following this specific case.

“Additionally, out of an abundance of caution, all employees in the same building have been asked to work remotely until Monday and monitor for symptoms while the university thoroughly cleans that entire facility,” Jones said in an email. “There is no known threat to the broader community.”

Rowe urged members of the College community to practice calm in the weeks to come.

“William & Mary is a resilient community,” Rowe said in an email. “I have seen this firsthand, particularly in recent weeks. We take care of each other. I am confident that will be the case in the coming days and weeks. Thanks to each of you for your creativity, understanding and commitment to this shared effort.”

This is a breaking story and will be updated as more details become available. This article was last updated Thursday, March 12 at 11:40 p.m.

Methods:

To create the map, The Flat Hat mainly relied on Bryan Alexander’s crowd-sourced dataset of higher ed institutions that have closed and/or moved to online classes due to the outbreak. Due to gaps in the data, The Flat Hat utilized a list published by WIFR to better represent college closures in the mid-west. Lastly, the source from Github was used to bolster Alexander’s dataset where we found gaps, primarily in Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia colleges.

Editor’s Note: Data Editor Leslie Davis ’21 and Data Associate Editor Matt Lowrie ’22 created data visualization graphics for this article.