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UCI Will Not Cancel Classes Despite Confirmed Coronavirus Cases In Orange County

Update 3/11/2020: Winter finals and spring classes will be held remotely. Read more about it here.

Update 3/10/2020: This article has been updated to include information from an email from the UCI Student Health Center Director.

Chancellor Howard Gillman announced that UCI will continue to operate normally during week 10 despite there being two confirmed coronavirus cases and four presumptive cases in Orange County — including one presumptive case at UCI — according to an email sent on March 8 from Gillman and an email sent on March 10 from the UCI Student Health Center.

Albert Chang, Medical Director for the Student Health Center, said in a recent email that a member of the UCI community potentially tested positive for coronavirus. The individual is now under self-quarantine.

“We currently have several cases that we are following very closely with the Orange County Health Care Agency, and we will be sure to inform our community of any updates and changes,” Chang said.

Chang said that for students covered by the university insurance, all medically necessary screening and testing for coronavirus would be offered for free.

“We continue to encourage students to be healthy and to refrain from attending classes if they are unwell,” Chang said.

According to Gillman, the UCI administration will continue evaluating the “global and regional” situation and assessing the local impact with national and local health officials.

“We have assessed that the risk of transmission associated with classroom instruction remains low,” Gillman said. “[T]here is no reason for us to suspend ordinary instructional activity. In-person classroom meetings will be under normal operation for the week of March 9th.”

According to the Orange County Health Care Agency website that they believe that risk of public infection is low. One of the cases noted in their website — it is not specified whether it is a presumptive or confirmed case — was caused by person-to-person spread.

“We are aware that a small number of other universities … have suspended normal in-person classroom meetings,” Gillman said. “Rest assured: we are prepared to do the same should our local situation change.”

UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla announced in an email on Monday, March 9, that spring quarter classes will be held remotely through “online teaching and learning tools,” despite there being no confirmed coronavirus cases on the campus. Classes will continue to meet in person during the remainder of winter quarter. 

UCSD is the second UC campus to suspend classes. Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ sent a message to the campus on Monday, March 9, saying that beginning March 10, most in-person classes would be suspended until further notice. According to Christ, there are no confirmed cases in Berkeley, but “the campus is proactively taking steps that will help to protect the community.”

In his email, Gillman said that the administration is “encouraging” instructors to accommodate students who cannot attend in-person classes or take in-person exams. 

“If the facts justify additional restrictive steps, we will be prepared to act quickly to adjust our practices to better protect the health of our community, including suspending in-person classroom meetings. But that is not the situation we face at this time,” Gillman said.

Oriana Gonzalez is the 2019-2020 Editor-In-Chief. She can be reached at eic@newuniversity.org.