2 WVa universities pushing learning online over coronavirus

By JOHN RABY Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s two major universities are temporarily eliminating face-to-face instruction and extending their spring breaks as they continue to monitor the threat of the new coronavirus in a state with no confirmed cases.

Marshall University in Huntington announced the move Wednesday, a day after West Virginia University in Morgantown disclosed the change. Students at both schools will be offered online instruction or other alternative learning options starting March 30.

WVU is calling off classes for a week after students return from spring break, which starts Saturday. Marshall is suspending in-person classes next week to allow faculty to prepare for the change. Marshall’s official spring break starts March 21.

WVU residence halls will close Friday night. The university did not indicate when they would reopen and is telling students to wait for further notification before returning to campus.

The university said students should take essential items with them when they leave.

“The University takes seriously its responsibility to protect our campuses during this uncertain time,” WVU President Gordon Gee said in a letter to the university community.

Marshall said students can choose to remain home after spring break or return to campus. Residents halls will stay open and students who elect to remain on campus will have food service options available.

Marshall anticipates returning to normal academic operations either on April 13 or when it’s determined to be safe to resume face-to-face instruction.

“We have no greater responsibility than the safety and security of our university community and the community at large,” Marshall President Jerome A. Gilbert said in a statement.

Current online classes are unaffected by the decisions at both schools, which also have suspended university-related international travel. WVU also has called off domestic travel through March 30.

WVU has nearly 27,000 students on its Morgantown campus and 31,000 systemwide. Marshall has an enrollment of nearly 13,000 students.

As of Wednesday, West Virginia has tested eight people for the virus, with seven negative results and one test pending, officials said.

Gov. Jim Justice said last week that the state can now conduct its own coronavirus tests, after previously having to submit tests to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.


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