U of M suspends in-person classes due to COVID-19 concerns

The University of Minnesota announced Wednesday that it would suspend in-person classes due to COVID-19 concerns. The announcement comes as colleges across the state are making decisions about how to handle the growing threat of the novel coronavirus.

According to the university, spring break for the Twin Cities, Rochester and Duluth campuses will be extended to March 18, and from March 18 to April 1 all coursework at all five U of M campuses will be online. The unprecedented decision by the university affects more than 60,000 students across the five campuses.

"It is kind of a funky situation that I never anticipated being in," said biology major Serena Gjesvold. "I personally do a lot of work in labs so that’s not really something that can be done online."

The U of M also announced Thursday that it is working to bring all students and staff in Europe home after President Donald Trump announced an overseas travel Wednesday night and the U.S. Department of State and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued travel warnings for Europe.

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Other colleges across the country, including UCLA and Duke University, have made similar moves. Harvard University is even forcing students to move out of the dorms. The University of Wisconsin-Madison also announced Wednesday it would suspend in-person classes and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville suspended international trips.

In-person classes will continue for the time being at other Minnesota universities, like the University of St. Thomas, St. Cloud State and Minnesota State University, although those schools acknowledged that could change because of this "rapidly evolving situation."

On the other end of the spectrum, students who are already taking classes online have different concerns. Brandy Mai lives in Georgia and is an online student at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law. She said she is frustrated because the school is still requiring students from all over the country to travel to campus in St. Paul for a residency this month.

"There’s great concern that they are putting students between a rock and a hard place, between missing class and potentially exposing themselves to medical or financial or economic risk," Mai said.

A Mitchell Hamline School of Law spokesperson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they been actively monitoring the changing situation with COVID-19 and planning for contingencies, keeping the health of students and staff as their top priority. They said school leaders are planning an announcement for Thursday related to their plans going forward.